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Linux- types, flavours, behaviours

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Linux- types, flavours, behaviours

Tig2
On TR we have SMEs that understand Linux and Free BSD in ways that the uninitiated do not. And I think that those of us who want to learn a Linux have different objectives as well.

I propose this- that those of us that are admitted newbies come to the table with what we can do... but that we ask the SMEs what their preferences are and why.

So some ground rules- use "Live CD" even if it is a misnomer- in the header of your post. A Live CD will be different from a full install. But if that is your intallation goal, communicate it.

If what you think you have is more "Live" or "less"... why?

If you have a test box, and you are working this angle, let us know.

When everything works, let us know what you are using, the basic box, and what information got you to success.

We have some REALLY great SMEs on this board. What I hope to hear from them is what they think has traction and why.

We have to work together. I believe that we can.


I know that we are all trying to reach a communication point. I will be soon uploading my learnings... Or- I will soon upload what I have learned about the differentiation of American and Mid East culture.

It could be good. As long as anyone cares.


Edited to fix Apotheon's name. I shouldn't post in my sleep...
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    Jaqui

    That can make it far eqaier to find information out, and even hlp pick a distro to try.

    The distro Chooser:

    http://www.zegeniestudios.net/ldc/index.php

    this is only a very limited list of distros, but the ones listed are well known and have a certain level of maturity.

    The Linux != Windows Article:

    http://linux.oneandoneis2.org/LNW.htm

    a good read to help remove preconceptions, and help to understand the mindset of most Linux users.

    Distro Watch

    http://distrowatch.com/

    A very comprehensive list of distributions, with links to each distro's site, and recent news from the distros.

    The Linux Documentation Project

    http://tldp.org/

    A very complete archive of Linux Documentation, including the full set of How To guides. The limitation of it is that not everything is referencing current software, so there is a fair amount of outdated information on the site.

    For help Installing

    http://articles.techrepublic.com.com/5100-10877-5982893.html

    An article I wrote to help with installing linux. I did try to keep it non specific for disros, which isn't easy, as every distro is unique in the install.

    And, naturally, Linux Questions

    http://www.linuxquestions.org

    a free community site of linux users focused on helping people learn linux.

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    w2ktechman

    Also an informaive site

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    yup

    Jaqui

    we could post a few hundred sites easily and still not have them all.
    I was only trying to post one for each type of starter question.

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    Tig2

    What distro do you use and why? What do you see as the defining marks of a good distro? How about a bad one?

    I have to find something that is easy to install and intuitive for end users who don't really "get" computers. Where is a good place to start for end users who were raised on MS?

    Wish I had been more awake and more complete in this post...

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    Jaqui

    mentioned in the question / comments, I just didn't answer them

    What distro do you use and why?
    I use Linux from Scratch, because I have total control over everything then.

    What do you see as the defining marks of a good distro?

    This is the hardest question to answer, because it really depends on the needs of the person / company. Most companies would never concider using a distro they cannot buy support from the distro, for those times their own staff can't solve a problem.

    I've been using linux for so long I can get fairly close to what I want with most distros, but that is knowledge gotten over time, can't be easily transferred, since each person wants something different and may not be willing to let something else gor for getting something else.
    [ tradeoffs are a big sticky point for most people ]

    How about a bad one?
    This is easy, Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Edubuntu, Xubuntu are bad distros, they killed security by disabling root account.
    any distro with no system admin account is bad.

    . Where is a good place to start for end users who were raised on MS?

    simple, single cd install, lots of options for software, familiar for MS users, PCLinuxOS.
    the Mandriva Drakxtools frontend to Debian.
    has almost all aero-glass ui enabled by default, very windows like kde configuration.
    with better security than the ubuntu group.
    The installcd is also a live cd, with a one click intall from the live os.

    PCLinuxOS 1.0 will be released soon. I looked at the current release candidate, while the multmedia stuff means I won't use it, it's a near duplicate to what MS has available.

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    stress junkie

    That would be applicable to me too. Using tobacco was the biggest mistake I ever made but stopping makes me crazy.

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    Jaqui

    for one with a coffee in one hand, smoke hanging from the corner of the mouth, and a big gun blazing away at stupid people, you know, the ones that tried to get between you and the coffee and smoke. ]:)

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    rhomp2002

    When I was in the hospital for emphysema, he told me I could smoke or I could live - my choice - but I would not be able to do both. It does rather concentrate the mind and I have not smoked since. Not the best way to do it but it certainly worked for me.

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    Jaqui

    If I don't smoke I'll kill people way to often.

    I'll have a smoke going as they bury me :)
    oh, hold it, I'm already dead, cremated and buried, I still haven't stopped smoking.

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    w2ktechman

    My doc told me to stop smoking, and stop sugar, AND caffeine
    I told her that I would sooner die, and if that was going to happen, so be it!
    However, I did make a few small changes with sugar mainly

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    stress junkie

    My doctor wants me to stop smoking, just drink water, and go on the Atkins diet. I don't think so.

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    mo.dale.c47z

    I have been using CHANTIX a prescription medicine. It blocks the nicotine from reaching the receptor that create the dopamine that is the pleasure sensation to smoke.

    The cravings aren't cravings but urges to smoke. I still have to fight of the need to light up that's linked to habits, but that's going well...

    Mo

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    HAL 9000 Moderator

    I don't see the need to quit though I do see a need to stop seeing Quit Commercials.

    Many years ago when my Specialist found out that I worked with computers he recommended that I start smoking as it's much cheaper than seeing a shrink.

    Col ]:)

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    Freebird54

    I am somewhat confused how ubuntu et al compromise security by their account setup. I can understand Jaqui not liking the environment (bloat) - but they can be as secure, or insecure as any other distro - and with a little thought can be more so than most.

    First thing I did was set up an account other than the 'original' account - which runs as a normal user-level account, and does NOT have access to the 'sudo' command - which gives one root/admin access to the system. This means that not only does a hacker need to break my 'user' account, but also the 'original' account, and THEN has to know that nothing is accessible even from there without sudo. Good chance he'll keep looking for more accounts???

    If I'm incorrect about this security scenario - please explain it to me, and I'll go back to total security (unplugged! :))

    midnightlogic

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    apotheon

    You started on the right track, but stopped before you finished.

    Using sudo from your administrator account, while having a separate standard use account, is almost a good idea. It's roughly the same as just having a root account, though, that is universally accessible as long as you know the password. After all, once you crack your administrator account with sudo access, you don't need to get another password to get root access to any command on the system. Just use sudo, and you're golden with the password for the account you've already cracked.

    The way to really do it right for maximum security is to have two user accounts plus a root account, without any sudo access at all. From the account you don't normally use -- the administrative standard user account, as opposed to the completely unprivileged user account -- you allow access to the su command to get into root access. Deny access to the su command for all other accounts. Also deny direct log in capability for root, so that it has to be access via su with the root password. Thus, the person trying to crack your system needs three passwords, rather than simply two.

    It's actually fewer steps to get to that from a more standard Linux security model than from Ubuntu's default.

    I think the reason Jaqui says that Ubuntu isn't as secure, and I know the reason I say it isn't as secure by default, is that by default the only user account on the system has sudo access to everything. That means that, if you're using Ubuntu in default configuration, all anyone has to do is crack the main user account and use sudo to own the box. Compared to the standard Linux security model, that's a crap approach: the way the standard Linux security model works, you have to crack the root account, which you may not be able to do without first cracking the main user account. This adds an additional layer of security.

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    w2ktechman

    everyone knows the root username. Wouldnt it be more secure if the username and PW needed to be cracked?

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    apotheon

    . . . not really. Since the /etc/passwd file has to be accessible to all user accounts, or they wouldn't be able to sign in, it's not difficult for someone to figure out which accounts are present and available to be cracked. The only thing that's typically encrypted and protected from casual reading is the password.

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    Deadly Ernest

    is the system set so that you can't log into root directly from either the gui or command line. So you need the account password and then the root password when you use su from the user account.

    I even seen one installation on someone else's machine(and I can't remember which distribution it was) where they allowed you to disable the account 'root' if, and only if, you already had another account set up with root access. This was even better as hackers would go crazy trying to find root's password. The error message given was 'ID and password invalid' not 'Account disabled' so they had no idea it was disabled. I thought it was very cute.

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    w2ktechman

    I like the SUSE 10. I finally installed Kubuntu, and am having troubles with parts of it. Although I do like the 3D fireworks screensaver, I cannot seem to get FF installed on it. With SUSE it was already there.
    Actually, with Kubuntu, the Adept installer says that it is installed, but I cannot find it.
    I think I may just **** this away and try Mandriva tomorrow after reading Jaqui's notes on it. I didn't look to hard at the root account, but I did wonder after installing, why I am on as root, and why it did not ask for a root PW.
    now I know.

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    khicker

    I use a version of MEPIS which is a debian derivative OS. They have 3.3 and a Server version that are very stable. It installs as a "Live CD" version that loads fully if you find it runs OK on your computer. There are 3 other PKG CD's to load other programs not on the basic install that have been verified not to crash the base install.
    It finds almost every device on a fairly new machine ( like windows only more stable) and its a 2.6 kernal.

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    GentleRF

    Whatever happened to LinuxIso.org? It was a well set up site and an easy to follow set of links for the distro of your dreams.

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    Jaqui

    I do know they tended to run six months behind in updating the site.
    Often saying a particular distro was soon to release the next version when it was soon to release the version after what linuxiso was talking about.

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    dawgit

    It should be good. (and a lo of fun for you)
    I'm not going to comment, as there are a lot more qualified here than me. So, I hope you don't mind if I lurk in the bushes and watch. (I'm harmless, really, please don't call the Police :0 )
    :^0 -d

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    stress junkie

    ... is that we all have strong preferences in what we each want from a computer operating system. There are so many Linux distributions that it really can be all things for all people. Some of these preferences are philosophical, such as whether a Linux distribution should include software that is not open source. Sometimes disagreements of this nature get a bit heated. While people in the Linux community may enjoy debating the merits of one philosophy over another it must be confusing and discouraging to people investigating Linux for their own use.

    The BSDs, on the other hand, are almost outside the scope of discussion. I think that most of us would agree that the BSD distributions provide the highest quality Unix experience available. I would also include Solaris in this camp. The thing about Solaris and the BSDs is that Unix was never easy to use. Solaris and the BSDs are still very difficult to administer when compared to most Linux distributions. Their user environment is very austere and primitive. There aren't very many applications available to use on these platforms; at least not compared to the number of applications that natively run on Linux. So Solaris and the BSDs are suited for environments where people are familiar with the old ways of doing things, which means doing things by hand in a terminal window using a text editor. There is little room to debate that Solaris, and maybe the BSDs, are very high performance compared to Linux. If you need a high performance server then Solaris is an excellent choice, and the BSDs might also qualify, but they are not going to have GUI system administration tools to the same degree as many Linux distributions.

    My preferences for desktop use is to have a full featured graphical environment that basically emulates many features found in Windows. I like it when I want to do something new and the software is already installed and ready to use. I like it when I hear about some software that is not already installed and it has already been tested for my distribution and can easily be installed using a software package manager in five minutes or less. And I particularly like when the people who created the distribution that I use don't have the same type of attitude as Microsoft about how I may or may not use my computer.

    I hate it when the only available version of a distribution is in active development. That invariably means that some things don't work as advertised even when you follow the instructions. There are only a few distributions like this. Most distributions have a stable version that has been thoroughly tested and is reliable.

    So we Linux people are a diverse group. Fortunately the Linux distributions are equally diverse. And if by some unlikely chance you cannot find a distribution that you like you can always get the sources and build your own version of Linux.

    Unfortunately a discussion about Linux distributions can devolve into a "My distro is better than yours" shouting match.

    Having said all that I will vote for PC Linux OS for people who like the kinds of features that I listed above. There is no better distribution for configuring wireless network cards. It has all of the media playback codecs and applications that any teenager would want. The only real problem is that they are on the cusp of releasing a new version but the only version that is available to download is a release candidate. Hopefully this will change soon. The web site claims that they will have the release version available in a few days.

    http://www.pclinuxos.org

    There. I said it.

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    w2ktechman

    It looks like SUN is going to try to compete with Linux now
    http://www.linux.org/news/2007/02/19/0006.html

    Also, on the distro-chooser from Jaqui's list (above) has about 10 questions and then recommends several distros to choose from. I am using OpenSUSE on a system here at work, and on a desktop at home now. Just basic use so far, I set them up and just mainly use for Internet access, and other things. I have Outlook hooked up (using WINE) on my work system, and it works well (except it hangs when I try to create a .pst file).

    This last weekend, I tried Kubuntu at home (I like the KDE interface better than Gnome), but it kept hanging on the install (SUSE works though). The disc checked out fine, so my guess would be a driver problem on the system. Kubuntu was recommended for me on this distro-chooser site (along with Mandriva, which I am downloading now).

    Anyway, with helping pick one for learning, this site should work well. More advanced users will probably find other flavours to try out later.

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    DanLM

    I tried to help a friend of mine set up a BSD system that was coming from windows. This was done over a forum and not face to face. Because the BSD is so command line driven, he had a seriously hard time. He ended up going with a lynx distro that he found to be a alot easier.

    Shoot, I don't know BSD as well as I would like to. And I have been using it for almost 10/12 years.

    If someone would to ask me for help in command line things, I probably could be a help. But, because I do not use kde or the other desk top. I can't even help people install it. Never have, probably never will.

    My feelings on OS's are probably different then alot of folks here. I look at each one I use, and try to reconize it's streangth's and utilize it for that. I use MS, and probably always will for my desk top. I use BSD as a file/web server. Both at home, and also with my little jaunt into the world of a small buisness venture.

    So, if someone would want the help of someone that is a true diehard when it comes to command line. I will try to assist in any way I can.

    Dan

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    stress junkie

    I think most people that take their work seriously feel that there is room to improve their skill set. It's good that we don't become complacent and lazy. Computer systems are too complicated for mere mortals like us to truly master.

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    apotheon

    OpenBSD is certainly more command-line dependent than most other free unices, as far as I'm aware, but FreeBSD is just as easily a GUI-driven desktop as any Linux distribution. How you install it, and what software you choose to install, determines that -- the same as for most Linux distros.

    I use FreeBSD as my primary desktop OS. I use the command line exactly as much as I did when Debian was my primary desktop OS -- no more, and no less.

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    DanLM

    I've never installed the desk tops.... All though, I have installed webmin and use that to a certain extent. But, that is because I'm uncomfratable with my knowledge level with some of the servers I am modifying.

    I use almost all command line, and write perl/shell scripts for most of my repetive tasks.

    Dan

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    apotheon

    That's how I handle server sysadmin stuff, too, generally. I don't much use the GUI tools available for FreeBSD system administration any more than I used similar tools on various Linux distributions (I just poke at them enough to get a feel for them so I'll know what I'm talking about in conversation and be able to help less CLI-inclined people). They're definitely there, easily installed, and quite good for their purpose, though.

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    khicker

    Webmin allows faster changes in modifing the setup in a variety of applications. it's a lot faster than command line changes because you don't have to look up the switches in a rarely used application, the module usually has them when you go into the module.

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    uck

    apotheon

    I'm not a huge fan of Webmin. I find the interface a touch unintuitive, and clunky. Also, it simply lacks the flexibility and power of the command line.

    If you're into the MS Windows approach of having a few things at your fingertips and having to jump through hoops to get at any of the rest of it, though, I guess it probably suits your purposes pretty well.

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    khicker

    The application doesn't get to the meat and potatoes like CLI does but we're talking about helping someone (user)who doesn't know Linux , correct?

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    apotheon

    That's an excellent point. I'm sure it's an excellent way to get acquainted with server configuration as a beginner.

    I guess I forget, sometimes, that most people using Windows didn't get there via the DOS command line the way I did.

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    DanLM

    Every bloody module I've wanted to use this thing for requires IPFW. I don't use that... I use pfctl. pfctl was ported from OpenBSD, which has one of the best track records for being secure... I know, it's not all in the firewall. But, I have much to much configured for pfctl now to switch over, and because pfctl allows me to throttle ssh/ftp connects. I slam brute force attacks right up their wazoo. I have other things built to parse the log, but it's nice you can stop the attacks right from the firewall and then do cleanup work with log parsing/perm firewalling automated scripts.

    Dan

    p.s. I'm sorry, I'm about 2 months late on this comment... I just do not have the experience to contribute to help someone that is looking at all kinds of distro's, and I didn't want to muddy the waters. Just been lurking.

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    shardeth-15902278

    Some of the modules are great, very intuitive and well laid out.

    Others feel like someone slapped a coat of paint on the command line (kinda like how the robocopy gui just presents you all of the cmdline switches as checkboxes. In those cases it provides neither a more intuitive nor a more efficient interface).

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    jmgarvin

    The webmin snort module is awful. It's easier to just deal with confs than it is to fight through that mess of a GUI.

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    Tig2

    Stress, that is fabulous! I am trying to arrive at a variety of alternatives. I have a test environment available that will take almost anything I throw at it and do the job. On the other side, I have a fragile box that won't take too much of a beating before it curls its toes. So I am trying Live CD on the fragile box and anything more robust on the heartier box.

    I'll pull the existing PC Linux and start playing. When the new becomes available, I can start playing with that as well.

    I really appreciate your analysis!

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    stress junkie

    Yesterday I installed the test version of PCLOS on a machine for a new client. I told him that I would have to reinstall the release version in a week or two but I could install the test version to get him started. Naturally I didn't charge him for yesterday's work since it has to be repeated soon.

    He is a graphic artist so I showed him the GIMP software. I'm not familiar with that level of graphic software so all I know is what I've read about it. People say it is comparable to Adobe Photoshop. When I started the GIMP software he immediately recognized what all of the buttons did and how it worked. He remarked that it looked like an application that ran on the Macintosh machines a while back. This guy loves Macintoshes so that was a compliment. Anyway he was really happy. I think he was glad to have an opportunity to show me something from his area of expertise.

    He had a wireless network card on his desktop computer. We got that working in about two minutes. I had made a list of applications showing a typical Windows application, one or two open source equivalent applications, and what they did. So, for example, I had Nero, K3b, CD and DVD burning as one entry. I spent about four hours with him showing him how similar the graphic environment is to Windows. When I left he was very happy.

    The only problem that we had was related to his computer brand. He has a Sony Vaio desktop computer. PCLOS stopped booting when it probed for USB devices. I had to add the nousb parameter to the boot command in order to get it to finish booting. In the end this wasn't a problem since you can add and subtract parameters in the boot command very easily, even in the live CD.

    I believe that he is going to get along nicely with Linux. The high quality of software that is available free of charge is amazing. When I go back I will have to configure a backup routine for him after I install the release version of PCLOS.

    Another happy beginning.

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    Igor948

    I've played with about 40 distros (I'll save the redundant comments about performance, etc.

    After 1.5 years, I've finally decided on PCLinuxOS. It almost totally removes the learning curve and the forum people don't flame you to ashes!

    On my older systems (PIII,128MB RAM) I am running the .093 MiniMe version. On my better systems I run the BigDaddy version (the difference is the amount of bundled software)

    Most other distros have problems with configuring wireless, this one doesn't. I CANT WAIT for the new (2007.1) stable version to be released!!

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    apotheon

    While it may be true of NetBSD (I haven't touched it) and is probably true of OpenBSD (I haven't used it much), it's certainly not true of FreeBSD that it's any more difficult to admin as Linux distros. There are in fact about a half-dozen different GUI tools for software management alone, the CLI tools are at least as easy to use as the easiest CLI software management tools on Linux, and in many ways initial system configuration is easier in FreeBSD than in Linux. This ease is only increased because of the availability of the FreeBSD manual (an excellent resource unmatched by anything available for any Linux distro).

    FreeBSD really seems to be the best of both worlds -- the power of old-school Unix and the accessibility of new Linux distros. It has adapted exceedingly well over the years to the changes in OS management state of the art, without losing the logical organization and quality Unix architecture that is its heritage.

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    Deadly Ernest

    but this is something I put together several months ago and posted:

    OK first off, this is NOT a definitive review of all the Linux systems. I have been looking at what is easy to install and use for the BASIC level END USER that is technically illiterate - you know the type that does not understand why you should not click on the 'Yes' button on every pop-up box they see.

    To that end my evaluation criteria have been

    1. Ease of install as compared against Windows XP.
    2. Ease of post install use for general office activities.
    3 Ease of post install use for basic Internet activities, no I have NOT included chat, teleconferencing, or Instant Messaging type stuff.
    4. Reasonable security in an out of the box install.
    5. Reasonable levels of backwards compatibility with applications and hardware.

    NB This is not a performance comaprison with Windows or a review of system performance, I am simply looking for what some of my clients could use on a basis for them to install and use - they are challenged finding an ON button on many computers.

    The system I have used is a Pentium 4, 3 gHz with 3 GB of RAM and a 200 GB SATA drive. This is a 64 bit board and CPU. All software has been loaded on this same machine.

    I have not tried every system available due to accessibilty of software problems - downloading ISOs over 28.8 kbps with a 6 hour cut off is NOT an effective way to get software.

    The best compatibility with Windows based software and games, for all systems, is obtained by downloading and installing WINE for applications and Cedega for games (this will also run older games from earlier OSs).

    Results to date

    Mandrake 10 - need tech knowledge to install - about on par with DOS 6 and Win 3.1 re installation skills. OK to use but needs updating. After all, it is 18 months older than the rest of the systems tried.

    Free Mandriva 2006, Ubuntu 5.10, Fedora Core 4, Fedora Core 5 - were all OK to install some problems with post installation administration functions, noted later. OK to use. Debian 3.1 I had installation problems with and also tried to install on a P 4 2.4 gHz 32 bit machine as I thought problems may be related to the 64 bit hardware, got a different set of installation problems. Nothing major just annoying - Note, had same sorts of troubles with Win XP on those machines. All had better out of the box security than Windows XP as they included basic firewalls in their packages. They also required establishment of user accounts and opened into user accounts when booted. All were backwards compatible with the older hardware and software that I had on hand.

    Recommendations to clients who are going to use Linux and only Linux - install Fedora Core 5 or Ubuntu 5.1 and take a little time and trouble to learn the differences between them and the Windows you are used to. I also suggest that they get a tech to install WINE and XINE for them so that they can readily use their older Windows applications and play DVDs. Free Mandriva 2006 and Fedora Core 4 are not quite as good but acceptable. With all installations they recognised my Network Interface Card, video card, and modem, loading the correct drivers. All had to be told what my monitor was and FC 5, U 5.1, & FM 06 all had drivers for it, the rest used generic drivers that worked well.

    All came with Open Office, two browsers and two mail clients - usually their own versions with Thunderbird and Firefox.

    The only real complaints I have are outside the test criteria and relate to difficulties with dual boot systems. All recognised the Windows installation and set up the boot loader to handle that. However, in each case I could not use the GUI interface admin functions to reset the owner and group permissions of the Windows created partitions or folders to enable me to have full access within the Linux installations, They all enabled read and execute of FAT 32 partitions, with FC 5 and U 5.1 allowing read and execute of NTFS partitions as well. This is an issue for full sharing of files between the OSs.


    Update 22 Feb 2007

    Since then I've tried FC 6, Ubuntu 6.10, SuSe, Kubuntu, and SimplyMEPIS.

    I now use SImplyMEPIS 6, I prefer the KDE desktop and found those that auto set up with Gnome (like Ubuntu) mad some issues when you tried to skim the Gnome out by unloading the Gnome packages after loading KDE. Also, I do a lot of file management and admin stuff, Ubuntu just doesn't cut it there for me.

    I spent decades with MS, and find SimplyMEPIS the easiest to pick up from as regards the free Linux variants - Haven't tried Linspire as you have to pay for that down here.

    BTW the only Linux code I know is CHMOD, which I had to learn when working with FC 4.

    edited to correct typos and add

    Tried PCLinux OS today, the Live install looked nice but couldn't install. Had an issue with my very new Nvidea card and 22 inch wide monitor.

    One issue I did have with FC 6. My system now has one IDE hard drive with 2 partitions Mepis and Swap, and a SATA with two partitions - data and test. Test is where I install the new ones to try. When I installed FC6 it wanted to format all four partitions. When I told it to format test only, it did that and installed. Post installation I couldn't find any partitions except test and swap. I tried and couldn't find any way to mount the other two partitions within any of the GUI apps. A downer in my book, as it looked good otherwise. Would be good for a clean install situation.

    Advice for someone who doesn't do a lot of playing around with their files, which I do. Ubuntu or its derivatives like Kubuntu or SimplyMEPIS are the best in my estimation for basic users.

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    Jaqui

    most distro default to "higher" security settings, which disables even root write to ntfs, if you change the security level to "normal", then you gain write priviledges for root.
    to gain regular user write privs, you have to change mount options to explicitly allow ordinary users write access.

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    CharlieSpencer

    I enjoyed reading this when you first posted it. Thanks for the update on the newer distros.

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    rremsik

    A lot of good information in there. Ever considered putting a few web pages up with your comparisons? :)

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    Deadly Ernest

    But I already have my own web site with a lot of IT info and downloads on it. I'll see about doing a more in-depth evaluation and add some pages to the site. That will take some time, as I'll be a founding member of the Australian Procrastinator's Association when I get around to completing the application they sent me in 1972.

    www.bywater.net.au

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    khicker

    That's when I started building my electric gitar... I'm hoping to finish it someday, and then I think I will learn to play it!!!

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    mo.dale.c47z

    I am looking to set up this box as a web server. I am also looking to replace the WIN98 with something like the Linux XP or similar product.

    I ordered on Ebay Ubunto, Kubunto, Knoppix, Fedora 6 core, suse 10.2, and Linux XP. These should be on DVD. My plan is to test the all, but would like feedback on GNOME vs KDE and all that.

    As a background, I was into PC's with the IBM XT and was a expert dos command line user. Then was slow to catch on to windows 3.1. Used WIN98 when it came out til they stopped supporting it. I now have WIN XP HOME on both my laptop and desktop.

    I am looking to expand into a through knowledge of LINUX, but now only know the names of the ISO's.

    The box is a 950 DURON w 384mb RAM. The motherboard is K7SEM. WIN98 is on a 40gig drive and I have a 60gig drive free for Linux. I also have a ZIP100 internal and a Card reader for SD, SM, SC, etc. Also a DVD ROM CDRW drive.

    I've also ordered some books from Barnes and Nobles to study up on Linux.

    Where do I start. I have received no materials in the mail yet and would like some intro to Linux to set me on the right path.

    Thanks,

    Mo Dale

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    howdougd

    I started trying Linux distros about three years ago, gave up over and over. Bought "Linux for Dummies", didn't help much. Bought "Blue Screen of Death" didn't help much. Tried Suse, Mandrake, didn't help much. Went back to Win98SE for my serious work. Serviced Win XP for other people, hated it. Found Ubuntu in Feb. 2006. Now it is my system of choice.

    I use it for all my personal stuff excepting my WYSIWYG Web editor for which I still use Win98SE (I like Web Studio, Windows based).

    You can go to my Web site and see some of my Linux failures before I found success with Ubuntu and the Gnome Desktop, also how to make a Dual Hard Drive Switch to run two hard drives with two distros each independent of the other.

    http://imhdd.ms11.net/
    Good luck.
    imhdd

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    HAL 9000 Moderator

    Linux is not Windows

    http://tinyurl.com/8b9s6

    How to ask questions the smart way

    http://tinyurl.com/2wo6o

    Linux User Groups

    http://tinyurl.com/fu97y

    The Art of Unix Programing sounds heavy but is quite useful

    http://tinyurl.com/mfunu

    All of the above are fairly straight forward in explanation but all are very useful in their own right.

    Col

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    CharlieSpencer

    Nice change of pace.

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    HAL 9000 Moderator

    But one of the women who shall remain nameless from Germany went ballistic. As she was having a Bad Week I though this one might be better but I have a swag of different ones and I'm wondering how the Hugging Penguins will look.

    But I'll keep my left eye handy because it reminds me to do what I'm told to by SWMBO she dropped a 2.5 ton car on me and crushed my chest to 10.5 inches from side to side. Beside the broken ribs It Hurt and she didn't come visit me in the Meat Works she left my staff to do that and bring up a NB and mobile phones so they could keep in touch with me and I could collect my E-Mail. When a woman complains you better watch out or you'll be in real trouble. :^0

    Col ]:)

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    Tig2

    Linux for Dummies and a few of the SAMs books. What I realised reading them and trying a couple of linices is that the books didn't do as well for me as reading the SMEs inputs here.

    That said, I like the Linux for Dummies book. I found it to be helpful in recalling CLI (Command Line Interface) which I find to be the power of any of the Linices or Unices.

    I would like to hear of your testing. I am playing with Open CD Live on a fragile machine and am amazed at what it is capable of.

    I think that one day, end users will want to have options. I think that they should have them. I want to be able to tell them what the possibilities include.

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    apotheon

    By far, the absolute best general-purpose Linux book I have ever seen in my life has the (incredibly long-winded) title A Practical Guide to Linux Commands, Editors, and Shell Programming. The author's name is Mark G. Sobell. If you like what the Linux for Dummies book has to offer, this book will absolutely **** your mind. It makes the For Dummies books like like crap by comparison.

    Also . . . if you read my article (linked and mentioned elsewhere in this discussion) about using manpages, and remember the help command for native shell commands (which don't tend to appear in manpages), you'll have basically all you need to find any commands you've forgotten on any system with a reasonably complete manpage system.

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    mo.dale.c47z

    What the heck is "manpage" and "bsd" anyway?

    I have gone all out and bought over two hundred dollars in books from Barnes & Nobles.com and will still buy more if nescessary!

    Mo

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    CharlieSpencer

    Here's a quick answer. I'm sure others will elaborate.

    'manpage' is short for 'manual pages'. The good news is every distribution installs the manual by default. If you want information about a command or program, you can enter

    man foo

    and get information about the command. ('foo' is term used a lot on Linux help sites. It's used as to represent any generic piece of information, just like 'John Doe' is used to represent any average man on the street.) For example,

    man ls

    will provide information about using the ls command. This gives rise to the ever-popular but frequently over used answer, "RTDM!" for "Read the damn manual!"

    EDITORIAL CONTENT!!! The bad news is the man pages are written by experienced users for experienced users. I find them to be a poor tool for initially learning about Linux and it's capabilities. Imagine you knew nothing about car repair and I handed you the Chilton manual. They are much better suited as reminders about features you've already learned but forgotten, or about things you've got a basic grasp of and want to learn more about. Just one twit's opinion.

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    apotheon

    "I'm sure others will elaborate."
    I wouldn't want to disappoint you, so I'll provide a little elaboration.

    "'manpage' is short for 'manual pages'. The good news is every distribution installs the manual by default."
    That's the "unix manual", to be more specific -- since there are other types of "manuals" available that are not the same thing. For instance, there's the FreeBSD Manual, which is more like an actual book in electronic form, and FreeBSD also has its own unix manual system (aka "manpage system").

    "('foo' is term used a lot on Linux help sites. It's used as to represent any generic piece of information, just like 'John Doe' is used to represent any average man on the street.)"
    The term "foo" actually comes from programming, first. It's one of several so-called "metasyntactic variables" -- they are used as variables while discussion hypothetical code, and can stand in for real variables in code, function names, and so on, when you don't want to have to say "For instance, if you're using the printf function, you might do this." There are several standard progressions of metasyntactic variables that hail from various universities, but the most commonly used progression goes something like this:

    foo bar baz qux

    If you need more than four of them:

    1. You can just repeat qux, only with more U characters (quux, quuux, quuuux, et cetera).

    2. You should be using real programming terms instead of metasyntactic variables anyway, since your example is getting too complex.

    Because there's a strong programmer culture in any unixlike operating system communities, including Linux, the use of "foo" in the context of explaining things in Linux and other unices has become common.

    "'RTDM!' for 'Read the damn manual!'"
    You're being awfully circumspect. RTFM is a somewhat more common version of that, where F stands for a word other than "damn". It has become such a common term that even though F stands for a term not typically used in polite company, RTFM usually is not meant in an insulting or confrontational manner. It's just used as shorthand for "It's in the documentation, which provides a better explanation than I could. Perhaps you should check there. Also, you might have saved yourself some effort if you had checked there in the first place." The people who actually want to insult you typically won't say "RTFM"; instead, they'll flame you at length for wasting their time with stupid newbie questions that could have been answered by reading the documentation.

    I wonder if Steve Warren's crusade against the Linux community might have something to do with taking off-hand RTFM responses personally.

    "The bad news is the man pages are written by experienced users for experienced users. I find them to be a poor tool for initially learning about Linux and it's capabilities."
    There's certainly some issue with understanding some of the manpages if you're a complete beginner. It's usually a good idea to check there first, anyway: some manpages are better written than others, so that they're useful to newbies as well as experts with sketchy memories (like me), and if you then ask questions on a mailing list or otherwise seek the aid of experts you can forestall the RTFM response somewhat by (honestly) starting your question with something like "I looked at the manpage, but didn't understand it well enough to answer my questions about usage."

    edit: misplaced quotation marks

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    khicker

    If you like paper (opposed to manpages) Unix and Linux Answers by Russel & Crawford (http://www.osborne.com) and Linux desk reference SE by Scott Hawkins (www.phptr.com) can get you started.
    BTW A- welcome to CO and yes Wiki would qualify you to be a geek, but lke anything else in Wiki, we will have to verify it first!!! LOL
    KH

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    w2ktechman

    Many books are better for figuring it out. But once you get used to them, it really isnt too difficult.

    By the way, I hadnt ran across foo before. So, in Windows it would be * and in linux, foo is that correct?

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    CharlieSpencer

    In Windows, the asterisk (*) is a wild card used in searching, etc. I believe it serves the same function in Linux.

    'foo' is a term used only in documentation. Actually typing it in as a command parameter probably will result in a error message.

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    BSD

    HAL 9000 Moderator

    Is a different OS system more like Unix than Linux in the way that it works.

    It's the basis of Mac OSX if that's any help and as it's had it's day in Court there are no problems with using it in a commercial application where as Linux may have some problems at some time in the future.

    Col

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    w2ktechman

    :)

    Look up the command

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    Deadly Ernest

    One important thing to remember is that the majority, if not all, the Unix commands are the same for Linux. I use a few reference books.

    Oreilly - Linux in a nutshell

    Nicholas Wells - Guide to Linux Installation and Administration - from Thomson Learning

    SAMS - Red Hat Fedora 4 Unleashed
    (I got this when I was trying real hard to make FC 4 work, and since found that 99% of what it tells me about the commands etc is the same for other Linux distros).

    That and the manpages (manual pages). I've sometimes found the development documentation that you can load from most distribution disc s can help too. But they're a much more technical in nature, I only go there as a very last resort.

    Want some basix Linux or Unix books, approach your local tech college and ask them what text books they use for their beginner Linux or Unix courses, and get them.

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    khicker

    I think the short of it is... Most UNIX users have adopted Gnome as their GUI from the CLI and most Linux users that used to be "Windoze" users seem to like KDE more. this is a geralization but there is diehard competition on stating which is the "best". I believe KDE is more configurable, but it is a user choice.. Linux does both... Try that on Windows!

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    apotheon

    Things have changed over the years. Originally, GNOME was the more configurable and elegant of the two. GNOME has become so simplified (and stupefied) over the years, though, that it's basically for people who don't want to think. I guess maybe it's pursuing the classic MacOS (9.x and earlier) aesthetic of "You're too stupid to know what you want," while KDE continues to try to be a "better Windows" interface.

    I find them both hideous, odious, bloated, slow, and annoying. While KDE and/or GNOME might provide a not-completely discouraging starting point for beginners coming from the MS Windows and MacOS worlds, I suspect that most users would prefer Fluxbox, XFCE, Enlightenment, or even Sawfish and WindowMaker, if they'd just give something other than the Republican and Democrat of GUI environments a fair shake.

    Yes, I went there.

    edit: typo

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    khicker

    Yes, but it's hard to get an Independent, Constitutionalist, or "others" to the masses.

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    apotheon

    I keep trying anyway.

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    apotheon

    I've used probably half a dozen Linux distributions extensively, another half dozen enough to have a pretty good understanding of them (enough to know why they aren't as useful to me as others, at least), and know a fair bit about another couple dozen without having used them much.

    I've written a few articles here at TR that could be helpful for the Linux beginner:

    Linux 101: Use Knoppix to resize partitions for dual-boot installs
    Linux 101: Installing Debian GNU/Linux
    Linux 101: Making manpages work for you
    Linux 101: Efficient software management with the Advanced Package Tool in Debian

    There's more where that came from, too -- several articles about data and network security, for instance -- at this page. It isn't there today, but it's likely that there will be an article about using Subversion for personal document management listed on that page in the next few weeks as well.

    I intend to get to work on some resources more related to FreeBSD as well, in the near future.

    In my experience, RPM-based distributions vary wildly (at least, about as wildly as can be expected in the Linux world) from the expectations of most users of unixlike operating systems. If you want general Linux knowledge, RPM-based distributions are probably not the way to start, as RPM-based distributions not only vary quite a bit from DEB- and source-based distributions, but also from each other. If you just want to get away from Windows, though, and don't care about comprehensive understanding of Linux in general, that's not a reason to avoid RPM-based distributions.

    (note: RPM and DEB are binary package formats -- RPMs were invented by Red Hat, and DEBs by the Debian project)

    RHEL (Red Hat Enterprise Linux) and Novell SuSE provide the best support for proprietary software on Linux, such as Maya, with RHEL providing better support than Novell SuSE, because proprietary software vendors tend to develop for a specific platform rather than for portability. Fedora, the community-based spin-off of RHEL, is similarly well-supported by proprietary software vendors.

    Gentoo, Slackware, and Linux From Scratch provide the best support you're likely to get for nonstandard software configurations -- LFS is the most customizable, Gentoo is the easiest to configure, and Slackware is somewhere between the two. All three of them make it easier to thoroughly break things than most other distributions, however, because they way they provide this configurability is through use of source code compilation, with compile-time configuration options, to put together the platform. Gentoo is notorious for its "KDE is broken this week" issues -- which are not as bad as some make them out to be, but can be frustrating. Slackware is quite stable, but you can screw it up pretty easily if you're not careful -- at least you'll know it's your fault if it breaks, though. LFS is not for the faint of heart: unless you want to really get your hands dirty with experimentation and learning about the ugly guts of Linux, use something else.

    Knoppix is the biggest name in LiveCD distributions. MEPIS is more of a "professional" LiveCD. Ubuntu's LiveCD is mostly valuable as an introduction to Ubuntu. Those are pretty much the biggies for LiveCD distros -- there are of course other, more niche-oriented LiveCDs available, such as Zen Linux (really nice, lightweight, elegant desktop, but not nearly as good for hardware support as the others I've mentioned).

    There are the Windows-replacement commercial distros, of course. These include distributions like Linspire and Xandros. I tend to recommend avoiding Linspire -- use Xandros instead if you must use one of these. Some of the software provided with these is proprietary, and to get the full version of one of these distributions you typically need to pay some money (a pittance compared to Windows licenses, however -- and compared to support costs for RHEL and Novell SuSE as well).

    PCLinuxOS is sort of like a community version of the commercial distros Linspire and Xandros. It's a "user friendly" Windows replacement distribution, with a "user friendly" community. I have yet to meet a PCLinuxOS user (in the sense that he uses PCLinuxOS first and foremost) that doesn't come off like a Kool-Aid drinking cultist, however. Fully half the Linux users I've come across who are obsessively anti-Microsoft and sound utterly unreasonable about it (as opposed to those who are quite reasonable) are PCLinuxOS users as well -- and I don't think I've met a PCLinuxOS user who doesn't fit that description. I don't know why those personality traits are so constant for PCLinuxOS users, but they may be worth considering as factors in your decision.

    Debian has long been my favorite Linux distribution. It's among the most stable, and among the most easily configurable without being a source-based distribution. It has more software in its standard, free archives (about 20,000 distinct packages) than any other operating system on the planet -- about seven times as many packages as in Fedora, for instance. It has the biggest community of any OS as far as I'm aware, some of the most competent Linux users, and some of the best software management tools (the Advanced Package Tool, Synaptic, aptitude, and so on). Whereas RPM-based distributions have a tendency to change the way they do common, standard things, so that it's typical for any two established RPM distributions to differ from each other in occasionally surprising ways, the vast number of Debian-based distributions (including Knoppix, MEPIS, Ubuntu Zen, and a slew of others that I haven't already mentioned) tend to stick to pretty much the same way of doing things so that skills you learn that would be distro-specific with RPM-based distributions are more widely applicable with DEB-based distributions.

    Then . . . there's the BSD family of OSes.

    NetBSD was once the most widely ported operating system around, but Debian has outdone it on that score.

    OpenBSD is still the most secure OS in existence. It has shipped with a grand total of exactly one remotely exploitable vulnerability in default configuration ever. Ever. Just one. When you consider the hundreds of remotely exploitable vulnerabilities in default configurations of MS Windows every year, as compared with OpenBSD's one single vulnerability in the same fifteen-plus years, that should give you a pretty good idea of how secure it is. The OpenBSD project is also the source of a lot of security software projects, such as the OpenSSH remote access secure shell tool that is distributed with basically every Linux distribution and BSD OS in existence -- and is a better SSH implementation than any commercial implementation I've seen (and there aren't any other free implementations that even come close). The downsides to OpenBSD lie in hardware support, software support, and performance: it doesn't support anywhere near the hardware of NetBSD, FreeBSD, and most Linux distributions; it is somewhat limited in what software it supports, but the software it does support it supports exceedingly well; under high loads, it benchmarks notably more poorly than NetBSD, FreeBSD, and standard Linux-based OSes. For low-load purposes with fairly standard, productive uses, OpenBSD is quite useful. You just need to be aware of its limitations when choosing whether or not to use it -- an OpenBSD box (as OpenBSD currently exists) will never be much of a game machine.

    FreeBSD performance is comparable to Linux distributions using a 2.6 kernel -- which is to say it's excellent. Hardware support is not quite as broad as Linux, but the stuff it supports is often easier to configure and use with FreeBSD than with Linux, in my experience of the last four months or so (sound configuration, for instance, is a no-brainer in both when everything goes smoothly, but when it's not quite as smooth it's a lot easier to fix in FreeBSD than in any Linux distro I've used). Whereas Debian has more software in its archives than any other OS, FreeBSD is a very close second, and I don't think third place is anywhere near Debian and FreeBSD for software availability. FreeBSD, however, does not support proprietary commercial software as well as any Linux distribution. In many cases, where there's a gap in software support between FreeBSD and Linux, the difference is made up by excellent support for Linux software compatibility in FreeBSD, using compatibility libraries much easier to use than the Wine compatibility libraries for MS Windows software. FreeBSD supports installation from both source (via the "ports tree") and binary packages with equal facility, as well as Debian does with packages and Gentoo with its own ports system.

    Generally speaking, the best enterprise servers are, in order, FreeBSD, Debian, and RHEL. The best desktop for easy migration from MS Windows is probably Ubuntu, but it suffers some issues with stability and security as compared with Debian (then again, since Debian's about the best of any Linux distribution for those purposes, that could be said of any of them). Debian is likely the best general-purpose workhorse distro, at least as far as my tastes are concerned, with some of the lightest system administration demands.

    As for documentation . . .

    It's kind of a toss-up between FreeBSD and Debian, as far as which OS has the best documentation. Gentoo and Ubuntu are getting to be neck-and-neck for online forum support, but neither of them has anything as comprehensive as either the FreeBSD manual (freely available on the website and with the OS) or the Debian manpage system (also, freely available on the website and with the OS). Each has its advantages. FreeBSD also has extensive manpage support, but not quite as extensive as Debian's; Debian also has additional documentation, aside from the manpage system, but not quite up to the integrated, comprehensive standard of the FreeBSD manual. RHEL and Fedora have by far the most extensive documentation support via published books you can get in bookstores, though BSD-related books tend to be better organized, better written, and more complete.

    Despite all these differences, at least 98% of the skills you learn with any of these free unices are transferrable to the others. Even OpenSolaris is probably about 95% compatible with Linux and BSD OSes for transferrable skills -- more so, if you run it with BSD or GNU toolsets.

    Hopefully that answers some questions. I'm sure it raises a few more.

    Thanks for the compliment, TiggerTwo, and thanks for a Linux-related thread outside of article discussion that isn't a flame or a troll for flames by a Windows fanboy.

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    Tig2

    Between you, HAL, and Jacqui- with inputs from Stress and W2Ktech, I have my work cut out for me!

    As I read all the wonderful work that you have all done in this area, I am aware that PCLOS will be a great place to start for family that has no real understanding of computers- I had to install a MFD (read Multi Functional Device) for the fiance's mom last night. How do you not know how to do this??? She really doesn't. And she is not alone.

    His brother is currently in hospital. As soon as he gets out, he wants to buy a new computer. Vista will mess him up big time- all his current hardware is at least 5 years old. He can't afford to replace the whole kit. In XP world, I could make it all work. In Vista world, I am an end user and don't care to be anything much more.

    I can see that there will be others in my position- trying to support family members who are not technical. I feel that I need to at least offer some alternatives to costly replacement. I think that Linux/Unix can give me that flexibility. But before I go there, I had better have tested and learned it myself.

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    Tig2

    I am still interested, as are others on this board, what our peers can tell us about what you like, don't like, have tried, refuse to try, and WHY.

    Jaqui brought a point to the table about a distro that doesn't permit root privs. I see that as a problem- I am installing on a private machine, I may wish to work as root. However, in the case of my home user, that may never be an issue.

    Always looking for a new opinion...

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    apotheon

    As far as I'm aware, Ubuntu (including Kubuntu, Xubuntu, and Edubuntu) is the only distribution that doesn't allow root privileges by default, with the possible exception of Linspire (just don't even go there -- Linspire will ultimately do nothing but frustrate you -- and I'm not sure how they're handling administrative access in Linspire these days). That's changed relatively easily, but it can be kind of annoying to manage that differentiation of your local install of Ubuntu as compared with the default (I've heard of a couple cases where the default behavior was restored by a software update, which sounds uncomfortably like Windows to me).

    If you're going to use Ubuntu, you might as well stick with the default configuration. It's designed to make things dead easy for people who want to use the default config, and with almost no concern at all for people who want to change the configuration. This leads to people doing more customized configs having a more annoying time of it.

    The way Ubuntu handles administrative access without direct root access is through the use of the sudo command. The universal use of sudo creates some security concerns, but they're not huge concerns as long as you maintain reasonable security in other respects. I find having to use the sudo command for all administrative tasks highly annoying, personally, but I might consider Ubuntu as a way to keep an end-user in check, depending on what kind of access I'm likely to have to the machine and how much I personally would be providing support.

    That's really something you're going to have to decide for yourself, I guess. Generally speaking, I'd much rather use Debian (or, even better, FreeBSD). Configure it appropriately, and the end user need never know the difference. It could be configured so that the only way to access root privileges is to use the su command (different from sudo) from a specific lower-level user account, so that the main unprivileged user account cannot access root privileges and you cannot sign in as root without first signing in as the intermediate account -- that's the way I've done it on certain occasions in the past when I didn't trust the end user with unrestrained root privileges and still wanted normal root access for myself.

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    Jaqui

    when they shut down the root account, they made it so that the first account added is the password for system admin.
    That is the CRITICAL FLAW in their config.
    The non root password being used for root access is where they screwed the pooch royally.

    it makes their product useless in any business environment, if they want to use the security of linux to protect their data.

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    apotheon

    . . . why are you telling me this? I know. That's why I said that the sudo approach raises some security concerns.

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    shardeth-15902278

    But Apotheons comments made me think of it. People often shy away from Debian, as it has a reputation for being unfriendly and outdated, but it really is worth taking a look at. Particularly if you have access to resources like the nice step-by-step that Apotheon built to help you with installing and at the saem time developing an understanding of the philosophy.

    I have fiddled with a number of Distos over the Years (slakware, ubuntu, redhat, fedora, Suse, CentOS, Gentoo, and several others whose names I forget at the moment).

    Debian has one of the best track-records for stability, and the package management system is pretty darn easy after you get to know it. If you have someone who can help you learn the fundamentals of the philosophy, it is actually a nice option.

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    Jaqui

    is the installer.
    most people don't want a command line install, they want a pretty gui install.

    PCLinuxOS is debian backend with Mandriva's fancy gui tools frontend for install and configuration. They altered the software management tools to point at the apt system instead of urpmi that Mandriva uses. Which was the only real change needed for the Drakxtools to work with Debian.
    [ and it's only lacking Beryl on the default install for the full areo-glass / macosx gui effects ]

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    apotheon

    Please, don't turn into a PCLinuxOS cultist.

    Debian doesn't technically use a command line installer -- not by default, anyway. Its installer looks more like ncurses to me. I guess that's the difference between "command line" and "console based" coming through: it's not a fully fledged GUI install like that bloated monstrosity Fedora uses, the Anaconda installer, with all its clicky buttons and rounded edges, but it's certainly not a true CLI either. You don't need to know any commands to use the Debian installer -- and you don't need to use a mouse, either.

    It's the best of both worlds.

    The fact that some people are afraid of the unknown, and freak out when there aren't clicky buttons and 32b-color icons, is a real problem (for them), though.

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    Jaqui

    the show stopper for people just coming to linux when it comes to debian.
    [ and slak, gentoo, lfs, or any of the bsd options ]
    they are not the fancy mouse driven gui installers.

    funny thing is, they are the distros which garner the most respect from the experienced linux users.

    for people used to the gui install of ms, the console [ either cli or ncurses ] based install is a show stopper, they instantly assume it's to difficult to use.
    The LFS livecd "sane build environment" would really screw them up.. default to orange on black console, until you pass it some configuration options, after reading the [F1] screen. Then you have to set timezone and charset to work with before it says, ready. It holds there until you hit enter, system clock not functioning until you do so, causing system time to be out of sync if you are delayed in hitting enter.

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    shardeth-15902278

    People want to feel warm and fuzzy from the get-go. Personally, I'd like a nice interactive gui based partitioning tool (a'la partition magic), thought that is probably in all reality overkill, and would likely be more, rather than less confusing for a new user. I know Debian is working on a GUI installer (which unfortuantely craps out on my system). But where there are only a very few screens to get through. It isn't too difficult to create an easy handholding doc to get them through the initial install comfortably.

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    apotheon

    GUI partition tool

    Debian installation guide

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    khicker

    I talked about MEPIS in an earlier post. It would be good to see how the "live CD" version boots up on both machines you are using (I would like to know how well it does). The good thing about Linux is you can change security to anything you like in most cases. Even make sandboxes (traps)for all the hackers to play around in while trying to break your security.
    I think the CD load distros help with the " I only know how to load Windoze" users because it allows them to try different Linux versions, and most are brainless installs, finding most devices on fairly new machines. This is good if you have to load a user that doesn't know computers very well and only learns the applications they need to in order to complete their business.

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    khicker

    what about a dual boot machine with older hardware or linux with wine-Xine for older windows software?

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    Deadly Ernest

    as Linux will find and include XP on a list of OSs while XP won't always do this. I've had a P4 laptop and a P3 dual booted with XP and Linux for a few months. My preference is for SimplyMEPIS 6

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    apotheon

    "Linux will find and include XP on a list of OSs while XP won't always do this."
    In fact, MS OSes are notoriously bad at this. They often have problems even including other MS Windows releases in a boot menu, and specifically exclude non-MS operating systems.

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    Tig2

    So I have downloaded a couple of Linices and want to start playing.

    I have an AMD 2.08 GHz tower, 512MB DDR SDRAM and an nVidia GeForce 4MX with 64MB DDR shared video, 120 GB HDD (HP Pavillion a320n) that shipped with XP Home. I have recovery disks on standby in case something goes terribly wrong. This is my fiance's Mom's old computer- we got her a laptop for Christmas so I guess that it doesn't matter if I kill it.

    I know that there is a recovery partition on HP that is theoretically protected but I have the recovery disks so I don't think I am in trouble if I **** away the recovery part.

    So what is the best approach to cleaning the HDD to accept a new OS? Somehow I don't think that "format c:" will get me where I need to go to give this an honest try.

    Suggestions?

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    HAL 9000 Moderator

    As BIOS now doesn't support a Low Level Format you need a utility that can do the same thing and write zeros to every sector of the HDD. Using the Format option will not work when attempting to install any form of Linux as they don't use a NTFS File System or Partition whichever you prefer.

    I use a utility from IBM called Wipe & Zap but since IBM has sold its HDD manufacturing off to Hitachi they no longer supply this utility but Boot & Nuke will do the job admittedly somewhat slower but if you use the option to just perform 1 level of writing to the HDD or if you can the MBR's this will effectively ZAP the HDD and make it usable for your needs.

    http://tinyurl.com/4rfur

    There might be some that work faster but as I always look for the best available I'm not overly concerned by speed but someone else may have an option for something that's faster or I can E-Mail you the Wipe & Zap utility if you like.

    Col

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    Deadly Ernest

    that allows you to remove all partitions and reformat the whole drive for use with Linux. This usually does a very good job. The times I've used this, it's deleted all partitions, even on my HP laptop, and set the whole drive up for use with Linux. The ability of this toool does vary between distributions, but I've had it work well in Fedora Core, SimplyMEPIS, Debian, Ubuntu, and SuSE.

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    apotheon

    . . . but with Compaq it has always worked for me using Debian, and should work with FreeBSD as well. Most other distros should work, too, but I won't swear to it since I haven't checked out the partitioning tools on other Linux distributions than Debian and Knoppix for quite some time.

    Basically, during installation, when you get an opportunity to adjust the partitions on your hard drives, it should detect all resident partitions -- including that "recovery" partition. You should then be able to delete that partition (and any others you want to remove) whether the partitioning tools can actually read the partition or not.

    If for some reason that doesn't seem to be working for you, you can always try putting a Knoppix LiveCD in the drive and using the partitioning tools on that (QtParted) to deal with it. I've written an article about changing hard drive partitioning on MS Windows machines using Knoppix partitioning tools in preparation for setting up a dual-boot Linux system. You should be able to use the information in that article to sort out how to do what you need to do. For the most part, the tools are quite intuitive.

    You should realize that the way Compaq and HP set up their recovery partitions, the recovery CDs don't work if you **** away the partition. All the CD really does is provide access to the contents of that "hidden" partition via the recovery tools -- that partition is where the actual recovery data is stored. At least, that was the situation the last time I did enough tech support for people with off the shelf systems to have had to deal with this sort of thing regularly. I guess things might have changed in that respect in the last two years -- but I sincerely doubt it.

    I wouldn't worry too much about it anyway. I wouldn't want to run a Compaq or HP computer with an OEM install of MS Windows on it, anyway. Their OEM installs suck rocks, really. I never trusted them, even when I was using MS Windows regularly.

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    shardeth-15902278

    On most of the HP systems I have worked on (and Compaq as well), the restore Cd will work find, whether the restore partion is there or not. On the systems I have dealt with, the restore CD is essentially a 'GHOST Lite' which reimages the drive with a base image contained onteh CD. In some cases, there was a second CD which you would insert after the base image instal to apply drivers, applications, etc...

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    w2ktechman

    it should be able to be restored from either way. The last time I had to do it on an HP system, I had wiped and re-partitioned the drive, then ran the restore.

    But, I cannot say for sure on your model.

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    Tig2

    A total of 8 recovery disks. Now ask me if I am surprised.

    My HP laptop has 3 disks (DVD) and fiance's has 4 disks (also DVD). Would have taken 16 (I think) CDs to create recovery disks.

    I think I will try the Knoppix alternative first and see what happens.

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    w2ktechman

    PCLinux, as it first boots as a live cd, then places an icon on the desktop for installation help.

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    Deadly Ernest

    I have a HP Compaq NX9000 laptop that's about three and a half years old. A few months back I was away at a conference and got fed up with some problems with Win XP, I had my SimplyMEPIS 6 disc with me. I put it in the DVD player and installed MEPIS.

    The installation was no trouble, during the install process I was given the choices of:

    1. Let Mepis use the whole disc and create partitions as it wished.

    2. Use Qparted to create custom partitions.

    (NB: On installation on other systems with free space, there is a third choice to install in the unused space.)

    I chose number 1, and it blew away the whole disc, including the HP recovery partition.

    A few weeks later when my son needed to have XP on that machine to run some Windows specific software. I simply put in the Windows XP DVD and loaded a standard Win XP set up. It loaded perfectly, and the new load on the clean install actually worked better than the original HP installation.

    NB: I did NOT use the recovery disc, I did a clean install from the Win XP disc.

    Since then, we've replaced XP with SuSE and replaced that with Windows again, my son did that with the recovery disc and it went OK, but with less performance than the clean install.

    I'm planning on blowing the system, and partitioning it to dual boot with a clean install XP and SimplyMEPIS 6 sometime soonish.

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    Jaqui

    That can make it far eqaier to find information out, and even hlp pick a distro to try.

    The distro Chooser:

    http://www.zegeniestudios.net/ldc/index.php

    this is only a very limited list of distros, but the ones listed are well known and have a certain level of maturity.

    The Linux != Windows Article:

    http://linux.oneandoneis2.org/LNW.htm

    a good read to help remove preconceptions, and help to understand the mindset of most Linux users.

    Distro Watch

    http://distrowatch.com/

    A very comprehensive list of distributions, with links to each distro's site, and recent news from the distros.

    The Linux Documentation Project

    http://tldp.org/

    A very complete archive of Linux Documentation, including the full set of How To guides. The limitation of it is that not everything is referencing current software, so there is a fair amount of outdated information on the site.

    For help Installing

    http://articles.techrepublic.com.com/5100-10877-5982893.html

    An article I wrote to help with installing linux. I did try to keep it non specific for disros, which isn't easy, as every distro is unique in the install.

    And, naturally, Linux Questions

    http://www.linuxquestions.org

    a free community site of linux users focused on helping people learn linux.

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    w2ktechman

    Also an informaive site

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    yup

    Jaqui

    we could post a few hundred sites easily and still not have them all.
    I was only trying to post one for each type of starter question.

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    Tig2

    What distro do you use and why? What do you see as the defining marks of a good distro? How about a bad one?

    I have to find something that is easy to install and intuitive for end users who don't really "get" computers. Where is a good place to start for end users who were raised on MS?

    Wish I had been more awake and more complete in this post...

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    Jaqui

    mentioned in the question / comments, I just didn't answer them

    What distro do you use and why?
    I use Linux from Scratch, because I have total control over everything then.

    What do you see as the defining marks of a good distro?

    This is the hardest question to answer, because it really depends on the needs of the person / company. Most companies would never concider using a distro they cannot buy support from the distro, for those times their own staff can't solve a problem.

    I've been using linux for so long I can get fairly close to what I want with most distros, but that is knowledge gotten over time, can't be easily transferred, since each person wants something different and may not be willing to let something else gor for getting something else.
    [ tradeoffs are a big sticky point for most people ]

    How about a bad one?
    This is easy, Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Edubuntu, Xubuntu are bad distros, they killed security by disabling root account.
    any distro with no system admin account is bad.

    . Where is a good place to start for end users who were raised on MS?

    simple, single cd install, lots of options for software, familiar for MS users, PCLinuxOS.
    the Mandriva Drakxtools frontend to Debian.
    has almost all aero-glass ui enabled by default, very windows like kde configuration.
    with better security than the ubuntu group.
    The installcd is also a live cd, with a one click intall from the live os.

    PCLinuxOS 1.0 will be released soon. I looked at the current release candidate, while the multmedia stuff means I won't use it, it's a near duplicate to what MS has available.

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    stress junkie

    That would be applicable to me too. Using tobacco was the biggest mistake I ever made but stopping makes me crazy.

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    Jaqui

    for one with a coffee in one hand, smoke hanging from the corner of the mouth, and a big gun blazing away at stupid people, you know, the ones that tried to get between you and the coffee and smoke. ]:)

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    rhomp2002

    When I was in the hospital for emphysema, he told me I could smoke or I could live - my choice - but I would not be able to do both. It does rather concentrate the mind and I have not smoked since. Not the best way to do it but it certainly worked for me.

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    Jaqui

    If I don't smoke I'll kill people way to often.

    I'll have a smoke going as they bury me :)
    oh, hold it, I'm already dead, cremated and buried, I still haven't stopped smoking.

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    w2ktechman

    My doc told me to stop smoking, and stop sugar, AND caffeine
    I told her that I would sooner die, and if that was going to happen, so be it!
    However, I did make a few small changes with sugar mainly

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    stress junkie

    My doctor wants me to stop smoking, just drink water, and go on the Atkins diet. I don't think so.

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    mo.dale.c47z

    I have been using CHANTIX a prescription medicine. It blocks the nicotine from reaching the receptor that create the dopamine that is the pleasure sensation to smoke.

    The cravings aren't cravings but urges to smoke. I still have to fight of the need to light up that's linked to habits, but that's going well...

    Mo

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    HAL 9000 Moderator

    I don't see the need to quit though I do see a need to stop seeing Quit Commercials.

    Many years ago when my Specialist found out that I worked with computers he recommended that I start smoking as it's much cheaper than seeing a shrink.

    Col ]:)

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    Freebird54

    I am somewhat confused how ubuntu et al compromise security by their account setup. I can understand Jaqui not liking the environment (bloat) - but they can be as secure, or insecure as any other distro - and with a little thought can be more so than most.

    First thing I did was set up an account other than the 'original' account - which runs as a normal user-level account, and does NOT have access to the 'sudo' command - which gives one root/admin access to the system. This means that not only does a hacker need to break my 'user' account, but also the 'original' account, and THEN has to know that nothing is accessible even from there without sudo. Good chance he'll keep looking for more accounts???

    If I'm incorrect about this security scenario - please explain it to me, and I'll go back to total security (unplugged! :))

    midnightlogic

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    apotheon

    You started on the right track, but stopped before you finished.

    Using sudo from your administrator account, while having a separate standard use account, is almost a good idea. It's roughly the same as just having a root account, though, that is universally accessible as long as you know the password. After all, once you crack your administrator account with sudo access, you don't need to get another password to get root access to any command on the system. Just use sudo, and you're golden with the password for the account you've already cracked.

    The way to really do it right for maximum security is to have two user accounts plus a root account, without any sudo access at all. From the account you don't normally use -- the administrative standard user account, as opposed to the completely unprivileged user account -- you allow access to the su command to get into root access. Deny access to the su command for all other accounts. Also deny direct log in capability for root, so that it has to be access via su with the root password. Thus, the person trying to crack your system needs three passwords, rather than simply two.

    It's actually fewer steps to get to that from a more standard Linux security model than from Ubuntu's default.

    I think the reason Jaqui says that Ubuntu isn't as secure, and I know the reason I say it isn't as secure by default, is that by default the only user account on the system has sudo access to everything. That means that, if you're using Ubuntu in default configuration, all anyone has to do is crack the main user account and use sudo to own the box. Compared to the standard Linux security model, that's a crap approach: the way the standard Linux security model works, you have to crack the root account, which you may not be able to do without first cracking the main user account. This adds an additional layer of security.

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    w2ktechman

    everyone knows the root username. Wouldnt it be more secure if the username and PW needed to be cracked?

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    apotheon

    . . . not really. Since the /etc/passwd file has to be accessible to all user accounts, or they wouldn't be able to sign in, it's not difficult for someone to figure out which accounts are present and available to be cracked. The only thing that's typically encrypted and protected from casual reading is the password.

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    Deadly Ernest

    is the system set so that you can't log into root directly from either the gui or command line. So you need the account password and then the root password when you use su from the user account.

    I even seen one installation on someone else's machine(and I can't remember which distribution it was) where they allowed you to disable the account 'root' if, and only if, you already had another account set up with root access. This was even better as hackers would go crazy trying to find root's password. The error message given was 'ID and password invalid' not 'Account disabled' so they had no idea it was disabled. I thought it was very cute.

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    w2ktechman

    I like the SUSE 10. I finally installed Kubuntu, and am having troubles with parts of it. Although I do like the 3D fireworks screensaver, I cannot seem to get FF installed on it. With SUSE it was already there.
    Actually, with Kubuntu, the Adept installer says that it is installed, but I cannot find it.
    I think I may just **** this away and try Mandriva tomorrow after reading Jaqui's notes on it. I didn't look to hard at the root account, but I did wonder after installing, why I am on as root, and why it did not ask for a root PW.
    now I know.

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    khicker

    I use a version of MEPIS which is a debian derivative OS. They have 3.3 and a Server version that are very stable. It installs as a "Live CD" version that loads fully if you find it runs OK on your computer. There are 3 other PKG CD's to load other programs not on the basic install that have been verified not to crash the base install.
    It finds almost every device on a fairly new machine ( like windows only more stable) and its a 2.6 kernal.

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    GentleRF

    Whatever happened to LinuxIso.org? It was a well set up site and an easy to follow set of links for the distro of your dreams.

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    Jaqui

    I do know they tended to run six months behind in updating the site.
    Often saying a particular distro was soon to release the next version when it was soon to release the version after what linuxiso was talking about.

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    dawgit

    It should be good. (and a lo of fun for you)
    I'm not going to comment, as there are a lot more qualified here than me. So, I hope you don't mind if I lurk in the bushes and watch. (I'm harmless, really, please don't call the Police :0 )
    :^0 -d

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    stress junkie

    ... is that we all have strong preferences in what we each want from a computer operating system. There are so many Linux distributions that it really can be all things for all people. Some of these preferences are philosophical, such as whether a Linux distribution should include software that is not open source. Sometimes disagreements of this nature get a bit heated. While people in the Linux community may enjoy debating the merits of one philosophy over another it must be confusing and discouraging to people investigating Linux for their own use.

    The BSDs, on the other hand, are almost outside the scope of discussion. I think that most of us would agree that the BSD distributions provide the highest quality Unix experience available. I would also include Solaris in this camp. The thing about Solaris and the BSDs is that Unix was never easy to use. Solaris and the BSDs are still very difficult to administer when compared to most Linux distributions. Their user environment is very austere and primitive. There aren't very many applications available to use on these platforms; at least not compared to the number of applications that natively run on Linux. So Solaris and the BSDs are suited for environments where people are familiar with the old ways of doing things, which means doing things by hand in a terminal window using a text editor. There is little room to debate that Solaris, and maybe the BSDs, are very high performance compared to Linux. If you need a high performance server then Solaris is an excellent choice, and the BSDs might also qualify, but they are not going to have GUI system administration tools to the same degree as many Linux distributions.

    My preferences for desktop use is to have a full featured graphical environment that basically emulates many features found in Windows. I like it when I want to do something new and the software is already installed and ready to use. I like it when I hear about some software that is not already installed and it has already been tested for my distribution and can easily be installed using a software package manager in five minutes or less. And I particularly like when the people who created the distribution that I use don't have the same type of attitude as Microsoft about how I may or may not use my computer.

    I hate it when the only available version of a distribution is in active development. That invariably means that some things don't work as advertised even when you follow the instructions. There are only a few distributions like this. Most distributions have a stable version that has been thoroughly tested and is reliable.

    So we Linux people are a diverse group. Fortunately the Linux distributions are equally diverse. And if by some unlikely chance you cannot find a distribution that you like you can always get the sources and build your own version of Linux.

    Unfortunately a discussion about Linux distributions can devolve into a "My distro is better than yours" shouting match.

    Having said all that I will vote for PC Linux OS for people who like the kinds of features that I listed above. There is no better distribution for configuring wireless network cards. It has all of the media playback codecs and applications that any teenager would want. The only real problem is that they are on the cusp of releasing a new version but the only version that is available to download is a release candidate. Hopefully this will change soon. The web site claims that they will have the release version available in a few days.

    http://www.pclinuxos.org

    There. I said it.

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    w2ktechman

    It looks like SUN is going to try to compete with Linux now
    http://www.linux.org/news/2007/02/19/0006.html

    Also, on the distro-chooser from Jaqui's list (above) has about 10 questions and then recommends several distros to choose from. I am using OpenSUSE on a system here at work, and on a desktop at home now. Just basic use so far, I set them up and just mainly use for Internet access, and other things. I have Outlook hooked up (using WINE) on my work system, and it works well (except it hangs when I try to create a .pst file).

    This last weekend, I tried Kubuntu at home (I like the KDE interface better than Gnome), but it kept hanging on the install (SUSE works though). The disc checked out fine, so my guess would be a driver problem on the system. Kubuntu was recommended for me on this distro-chooser site (along with Mandriva, which I am downloading now).

    Anyway, with helping pick one for learning, this site should work well. More advanced users will probably find other flavours to try out later.

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    DanLM

    I tried to help a friend of mine set up a BSD system that was coming from windows. This was done over a forum and not face to face. Because the BSD is so command line driven, he had a seriously hard time. He ended up going with a lynx distro that he found to be a alot easier.

    Shoot, I don't know BSD as well as I would like to. And I have been using it for almost 10/12 years.

    If someone would to ask me for help in command line things, I probably could be a help. But, because I do not use kde or the other desk top. I can't even help people install it. Never have, probably never will.

    My feelings on OS's are probably different then alot of folks here. I look at each one I use, and try to reconize it's streangth's and utilize it for that. I use MS, and probably always will for my desk top. I use BSD as a file/web server. Both at home, and also with my little jaunt into the world of a small buisness venture.

    So, if someone would want the help of someone that is a true diehard when it comes to command line. I will try to assist in any way I can.

    Dan

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    stress junkie

    I think most people that take their work seriously feel that there is room to improve their skill set. It's good that we don't become complacent and lazy. Computer systems are too complicated for mere mortals like us to truly master.

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    apotheon

    OpenBSD is certainly more command-line dependent than most other free unices, as far as I'm aware, but FreeBSD is just as easily a GUI-driven desktop as any Linux distribution. How you install it, and what software you choose to install, determines that -- the same as for most Linux distros.

    I use FreeBSD as my primary desktop OS. I use the command line exactly as much as I did when Debian was my primary desktop OS -- no more, and no less.

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    DanLM

    I've never installed the desk tops.... All though, I have installed webmin and use that to a certain extent. But, that is because I'm uncomfratable with my knowledge level with some of the servers I am modifying.

    I use almost all command line, and write perl/shell scripts for most of my repetive tasks.

    Dan

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    apotheon

    That's how I handle server sysadmin stuff, too, generally. I don't much use the GUI tools available for FreeBSD system administration any more than I used similar tools on various Linux distributions (I just poke at them enough to get a feel for them so I'll know what I'm talking about in conversation and be able to help less CLI-inclined people). They're definitely there, easily installed, and quite good for their purpose, though.

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    khicker

    Webmin allows faster changes in modifing the setup in a variety of applications. it's a lot faster than command line changes because you don't have to look up the switches in a rarely used application, the module usually has them when you go into the module.

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    uck

    apotheon

    I'm not a huge fan of Webmin. I find the interface a touch unintuitive, and clunky. Also, it simply lacks the flexibility and power of the command line.

    If you're into the MS Windows approach of having a few things at your fingertips and having to jump through hoops to get at any of the rest of it, though, I guess it probably suits your purposes pretty well.

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    khicker

    The application doesn't get to the meat and potatoes like CLI does but we're talking about helping someone (user)who doesn't know Linux , correct?

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    apotheon

    That's an excellent point. I'm sure it's an excellent way to get acquainted with server configuration as a beginner.

    I guess I forget, sometimes, that most people using Windows didn't get there via the DOS command line the way I did.

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    DanLM

    Every bloody module I've wanted to use this thing for requires IPFW. I don't use that... I use pfctl. pfctl was ported from OpenBSD, which has one of the best track records for being secure... I know, it's not all in the firewall. But, I have much to much configured for pfctl now to switch over, and because pfctl allows me to throttle ssh/ftp connects. I slam brute force attacks right up their wazoo. I have other things built to parse the log, but it's nice you can stop the attacks right from the firewall and then do cleanup work with log parsing/perm firewalling automated scripts.

    Dan

    p.s. I'm sorry, I'm about 2 months late on this comment... I just do not have the experience to contribute to help someone that is looking at all kinds of distro's, and I didn't want to muddy the waters. Just been lurking.

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    shardeth-15902278

    Some of the modules are great, very intuitive and well laid out.

    Others feel like someone slapped a coat of paint on the command line (kinda like how the robocopy gui just presents you all of the cmdline switches as checkboxes. In those cases it provides neither a more intuitive nor a more efficient interface).

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    jmgarvin

    The webmin snort module is awful. It's easier to just deal with confs than it is to fight through that mess of a GUI.

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    Tig2

    Stress, that is fabulous! I am trying to arrive at a variety of alternatives. I have a test environment available that will take almost anything I throw at it and do the job. On the other side, I have a fragile box that won't take too much of a beating before it curls its toes. So I am trying Live CD on the fragile box and anything more robust on the heartier box.

    I'll pull the existing PC Linux and start playing. When the new becomes available, I can start playing with that as well.

    I really appreciate your analysis!

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    stress junkie

    Yesterday I installed the test version of PCLOS on a machine for a new client. I told him that I would have to reinstall the release version in a week or two but I could install the test version to get him started. Naturally I didn't charge him for yesterday's work since it has to be repeated soon.

    He is a graphic artist so I showed him the GIMP software. I'm not familiar with that level of graphic software so all I know is what I've read about it. People say it is comparable to Adobe Photoshop. When I started the GIMP software he immediately recognized what all of the buttons did and how it worked. He remarked that it looked like an application that ran on the Macintosh machines a while back. This guy loves Macintoshes so that was a compliment. Anyway he was really happy. I think he was glad to have an opportunity to show me something from his area of expertise.

    He had a wireless network card on his desktop computer. We got that working in about two minutes. I had made a list of applications showing a typical Windows application, one or two open source equivalent applications, and what they did. So, for example, I had Nero, K3b, CD and DVD burning as one entry. I spent about four hours with him showing him how similar the graphic environment is to Windows. When I left he was very happy.

    The only problem that we had was related to his computer brand. He has a Sony Vaio desktop computer. PCLOS stopped booting when it probed for USB devices. I had to add the nousb parameter to the boot command in order to get it to finish booting. In the end this wasn't a problem since you can add and subtract parameters in the boot command very easily, even in the live CD.

    I believe that he is going to get along nicely with Linux. The high quality of software that is available free of charge is amazing. When I go back I will have to configure a backup routine for him after I install the release version of PCLOS.

    Another happy beginning.

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    Igor948

    I've played with about 40 distros (I'll save the redundant comments about performance, etc.

    After 1.5 years, I've finally decided on PCLinuxOS. It almost totally removes the learning curve and the forum people don't flame you to ashes!

    On my older systems (PIII,128MB RAM) I am running the .093 MiniMe version. On my better systems I run the BigDaddy version (the difference is the amount of bundled software)

    Most other distros have problems with configuring wireless, this one doesn't. I CANT WAIT for the new (2007.1) stable version to be released!!

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    apotheon

    While it may be true of NetBSD (I haven't touched it) and is probably true of OpenBSD (I haven't used it much), it's certainly not true of FreeBSD that it's any more difficult to admin as Linux distros. There are in fact about a half-dozen different GUI tools for software management alone, the CLI tools are at least as easy to use as the easiest CLI software management tools on Linux, and in many ways initial system configuration is easier in FreeBSD than in Linux. This ease is only increased because of the availability of the FreeBSD manual (an excellent resource unmatched by anything available for any Linux distro).

    FreeBSD really seems to be the best of both worlds -- the power of old-school Unix and the accessibility of new Linux distros. It has adapted exceedingly well over the years to the changes in OS management state of the art, without losing the logical organization and quality Unix architecture that is its heritage.

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    Deadly Ernest

    but this is something I put together several months ago and posted:

    OK first off, this is NOT a definitive review of all the Linux systems. I have been looking at what is easy to install and use for the BASIC level END USER that is technically illiterate - you know the type that does not understand why you should not click on the 'Yes' button on every pop-up box they see.

    To that end my evaluation criteria have been

    1. Ease of install as compared against Windows XP.
    2. Ease of post install use for general office activities.
    3 Ease of post install use for basic Internet activities, no I have NOT included chat, teleconferencing, or Instant Messaging type stuff.
    4. Reasonable security in an out of the box install.
    5. Reasonable levels of backwards compatibility with applications and hardware.

    NB This is not a performance comaprison with Windows or a review of system performance, I am simply looking for what some of my clients could use on a basis for them to install and use - they are challenged finding an ON button on many computers.

    The system I have used is a Pentium 4, 3 gHz with 3 GB of RAM and a 200 GB SATA drive. This is a 64 bit board and CPU. All software has been loaded on this same machine.

    I have not tried every system available due to accessibilty of software problems - downloading ISOs over 28.8 kbps with a 6 hour cut off is NOT an effective way to get software.

    The best compatibility with Windows based software and games, for all systems, is obtained by downloading and installing WINE for applications and Cedega for games (this will also run older games from earlier OSs).

    Results to date

    Mandrake 10 - need tech knowledge to install - about on par with DOS 6 and Win 3.1 re installation skills. OK to use but needs updating. After all, it is 18 months older than the rest of the systems tried.

    Free Mandriva 2006, Ubuntu 5.10, Fedora Core 4, Fedora Core 5 - were all OK to install some problems with post installation administration functions, noted later. OK to use. Debian 3.1 I had installation problems with and also tried to install on a P 4 2.4 gHz 32 bit machine as I thought problems may be related to the 64 bit hardware, got a different set of installation problems. Nothing major just annoying - Note, had same sorts of troubles with Win XP on those machines. All had better out of the box security than Windows XP as they included basic firewalls in their packages. They also required establishment of user accounts and opened into user accounts when booted. All were backwards compatible with the older hardware and software that I had on hand.

    Recommendations to clients who are going to use Linux and only Linux - install Fedora Core 5 or Ubuntu 5.1 and take a little time and trouble to learn the differences between them and the Windows you are used to. I also suggest that they get a tech to install WINE and XINE for them so that they can readily use their older Windows applications and play DVDs. Free Mandriva 2006 and Fedora Core 4 are not quite as good but acceptable. With all installations they recognised my Network Interface Card, video card, and modem, loading the correct drivers. All had to be told what my monitor was and FC 5, U 5.1, & FM 06 all had drivers for it, the rest used generic drivers that worked well.

    All came with Open Office, two browsers and two mail clients - usually their own versions with Thunderbird and Firefox.

    The only real complaints I have are outside the test criteria and relate to difficulties with dual boot systems. All recognised the Windows installation and set up the boot loader to handle that. However, in each case I could not use the GUI interface admin functions to reset the owner and group permissions of the Windows created partitions or folders to enable me to have full access within the Linux installations, They all enabled read and execute of FAT 32 partitions, with FC 5 and U 5.1 allowing read and execute of NTFS partitions as well. This is an issue for full sharing of files between the OSs.


    Update 22 Feb 2007

    Since then I've tried FC 6, Ubuntu 6.10, SuSe, Kubuntu, and SimplyMEPIS.

    I now use SImplyMEPIS 6, I prefer the KDE desktop and found those that auto set up with Gnome (like Ubuntu) mad some issues when you tried to skim the Gnome out by unloading the Gnome packages after loading KDE. Also, I do a lot of file management and admin stuff, Ubuntu just doesn't cut it there for me.

    I spent decades with MS, and find SimplyMEPIS the easiest to pick up from as regards the free Linux variants - Haven't tried Linspire as you have to pay for that down here.

    BTW the only Linux code I know is CHMOD, which I had to learn when working with FC 4.

    edited to correct typos and add

    Tried PCLinux OS today, the Live install looked nice but couldn't install. Had an issue with my very new Nvidea card and 22 inch wide monitor.

    One issue I did have with FC 6. My system now has one IDE hard drive with 2 partitions Mepis and Swap, and a SATA with two partitions - data and test. Test is where I install the new ones to try. When I installed FC6 it wanted to format all four partitions. When I told it to format test only, it did that and installed. Post installation I couldn't find any partitions except test and swap. I tried and couldn't find any way to mount the other two partitions within any of the GUI apps. A downer in my book, as it looked good otherwise. Would be good for a clean install situation.

    Advice for someone who doesn't do a lot of playing around with their files, which I do. Ubuntu or its derivatives like Kubuntu or SimplyMEPIS are the best in my estimation for basic users.

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    Jaqui

    most distro default to "higher" security settings, which disables even root write to ntfs, if you change the security level to "normal", then you gain write priviledges for root.
    to gain regular user write privs, you have to change mount options to explicitly allow ordinary users write access.

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    CharlieSpencer

    I enjoyed reading this when you first posted it. Thanks for the update on the newer distros.

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    rremsik

    A lot of good information in there. Ever considered putting a few web pages up with your comparisons? :)

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    Deadly Ernest

    But I already have my own web site with a lot of IT info and downloads on it. I'll see about doing a more in-depth evaluation and add some pages to the site. That will take some time, as I'll be a founding member of the Australian Procrastinator's Association when I get around to completing the application they sent me in 1972.

    www.bywater.net.au

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    khicker

    That's when I started building my electric gitar... I'm hoping to finish it someday, and then I think I will learn to play it!!!

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    mo.dale.c47z

    I am looking to set up this box as a web server. I am also looking to replace the WIN98 with something like the Linux XP or similar product.

    I ordered on Ebay Ubunto, Kubunto, Knoppix, Fedora 6 core, suse 10.2, and Linux XP. These should be on DVD. My plan is to test the all, but would like feedback on GNOME vs KDE and all that.

    As a background, I was into PC's with the IBM XT and was a expert dos command line user. Then was slow to catch on to windows 3.1. Used WIN98 when it came out til they stopped supporting it. I now have WIN XP HOME on both my laptop and desktop.

    I am looking to expand into a through knowledge of LINUX, but now only know the names of the ISO's.

    The box is a 950 DURON w 384mb RAM. The motherboard is K7SEM. WIN98 is on a 40gig drive and I have a 60gig drive free for Linux. I also have a ZIP100 internal and a Card reader for SD, SM, SC, etc. Also a DVD ROM CDRW drive.

    I've also ordered some books from Barnes and Nobles to study up on Linux.

    Where do I start. I have received no materials in the mail yet and would like some intro to Linux to set me on the right path.

    Thanks,

    Mo Dale

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    howdougd

    I started trying Linux distros about three years ago, gave up over and over. Bought "Linux for Dummies", didn't help much. Bought "Blue Screen of Death" didn't help much. Tried Suse, Mandrake, didn't help much. Went back to Win98SE for my serious work. Serviced Win XP for other people, hated it. Found Ubuntu in Feb. 2006. Now it is my system of choice.

    I use it for all my personal stuff excepting my WYSIWYG Web editor for which I still use Win98SE (I like Web Studio, Windows based).

    You can go to my Web site and see some of my Linux failures before I found success with Ubuntu and the Gnome Desktop, also how to make a Dual Hard Drive Switch to run two hard drives with two distros each independent of the other.

    http://imhdd.ms11.net/
    Good luck.
    imhdd

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    HAL 9000 Moderator

    Linux is not Windows

    http://tinyurl.com/8b9s6

    How to ask questions the smart way

    http://tinyurl.com/2wo6o

    Linux User Groups

    http://tinyurl.com/fu97y

    The Art of Unix Programing sounds heavy but is quite useful

    http://tinyurl.com/mfunu

    All of the above are fairly straight forward in explanation but all are very useful in their own right.

    Col

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    CharlieSpencer

    Nice change of pace.

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    HAL 9000 Moderator

    But one of the women who shall remain nameless from Germany went ballistic. As she was having a Bad Week I though this one might be better but I have a swag of different ones and I'm wondering how the Hugging Penguins will look.

    But I'll keep my left eye handy because it reminds me to do what I'm told to by SWMBO she dropped a 2.5 ton car on me and crushed my chest to 10.5 inches from side to side. Beside the broken ribs It Hurt and she didn't come visit me in the Meat Works she left my staff to do that and bring up a NB and mobile phones so they could keep in touch with me and I could collect my E-Mail. When a woman complains you better watch out or you'll be in real trouble. :^0

    Col ]:)

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    Tig2

    Linux for Dummies and a few of the SAMs books. What I realised reading them and trying a couple of linices is that the books didn't do as well for me as reading the SMEs inputs here.

    That said, I like the Linux for Dummies book. I found it to be helpful in recalling CLI (Command Line Interface) which I find to be the power of any of the Linices or Unices.

    I would like to hear of your testing. I am playing with Open CD Live on a fragile machine and am amazed at what it is capable of.

    I think that one day, end users will want to have options. I think that they should have them. I want to be able to tell them what the possibilities include.

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    apotheon

    By far, the absolute best general-purpose Linux book I have ever seen in my life has the (incredibly long-winded) title A Practical Guide to Linux Commands, Editors, and Shell Programming. The author's name is Mark G. Sobell. If you like what the Linux for Dummies book has to offer, this book will absolutely **** your mind. It makes the For Dummies books like like crap by comparison.

    Also . . . if you read my article (linked and mentioned elsewhere in this discussion) about using manpages, and remember the help command for native shell commands (which don't tend to appear in manpages), you'll have basically all you need to find any commands you've forgotten on any system with a reasonably complete manpage system.

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    mo.dale.c47z

    What the heck is "manpage" and "bsd" anyway?

    I have gone all out and bought over two hundred dollars in books from Barnes & Nobles.com and will still buy more if nescessary!

    Mo

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    CharlieSpencer

    Here's a quick answer. I'm sure others will elaborate.

    'manpage' is short for 'manual pages'. The good news is every distribution installs the manual by default. If you want information about a command or program, you can enter

    man foo

    and get information about the command. ('foo' is term used a lot on Linux help sites. It's used as to represent any generic piece of information, just like 'John Doe' is used to represent any average man on the street.) For example,

    man ls

    will provide information about using the ls command. This gives rise to the ever-popular but frequently over used answer, "RTDM!" for "Read the damn manual!"

    EDITORIAL CONTENT!!! The bad news is the man pages are written by experienced users for experienced users. I find them to be a poor tool for initially learning about Linux and it's capabilities. Imagine you knew nothing about car repair and I handed you the Chilton manual. They are much better suited as reminders about features you've already learned but forgotten, or about things you've got a basic grasp of and want to learn more about. Just one twit's opinion.

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    apotheon

    "I'm sure others will elaborate."
    I wouldn't want to disappoint you, so I'll provide a little elaboration.

    "'manpage' is short for 'manual pages'. The good news is every distribution installs the manual by default."
    That's the "unix manual", to be more specific -- since there are other types of "manuals" available that are not the same thing. For instance, there's the FreeBSD Manual, which is more like an actual book in electronic form, and FreeBSD also has its own unix manual system (aka "manpage system").

    "('foo' is term used a lot on Linux help sites. It's used as to represent any generic piece of information, just like 'John Doe' is used to represent any average man on the street.)"
    The term "foo" actually comes from programming, first. It's one of several so-called "metasyntactic variables" -- they are used as variables while discussion hypothetical code, and can stand in for real variables in code, function names, and so on, when you don't want to have to say "For instance, if you're using the printf function, you might do this." There are several standard progressions of metasyntactic variables that hail from various universities, but the most commonly used progression goes something like this:

    foo bar baz qux

    If you need more than four of them:

    1. You can just repeat qux, only with more U characters (quux, quuux, quuuux, et cetera).

    2. You should be using real programming terms instead of metasyntactic variables anyway, since your example is getting too complex.

    Because there's a strong programmer culture in any unixlike operating system communities, including Linux, the use of "foo" in the context of explaining things in Linux and other unices has become common.

    "'RTDM!' for 'Read the damn manual!'"
    You're being awfully circumspect. RTFM is a somewhat more common version of that, where F stands for a word other than "damn". It has become such a common term that even though F stands for a term not typically used in polite company, RTFM usually is not meant in an insulting or confrontational manner. It's just used as shorthand for "It's in the documentation, which provides a better explanation than I could. Perhaps you should check there. Also, you might have saved yourself some effort if you had checked there in the first place." The people who actually want to insult you typically won't say "RTFM"; instead, they'll flame you at length for wasting their time with stupid newbie questions that could have been answered by reading the documentation.

    I wonder if Steve Warren's crusade against the Linux community might have something to do with taking off-hand RTFM responses personally.

    "The bad news is the man pages are written by experienced users for experienced users. I find them to be a poor tool for initially learning about Linux and it's capabilities."
    There's certainly some issue with understanding some of the manpages if you're a complete beginner. It's usually a good idea to check there first, anyway: some manpages are better written than others, so that they're useful to newbies as well as experts with sketchy memories (like me), and if you then ask questions on a mailing list or otherwise seek the aid of experts you can forestall the RTFM response somewhat by (honestly) starting your question with something like "I looked at the manpage, but didn't understand it well enough to answer my questions about usage."

    edit: misplaced quotation marks

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    khicker

    If you like paper (opposed to manpages) Unix and Linux Answers by Russel & Crawford (http://www.osborne.com) and Linux desk reference SE by Scott Hawkins (www.phptr.com) can get you started.
    BTW A- welcome to CO and yes Wiki would qualify you to be a geek, but lke anything else in Wiki, we will have to verify it first!!! LOL
    KH

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    w2ktechman

    Many books are better for figuring it out. But once you get used to them, it really isnt too difficult.

    By the way, I hadnt ran across foo before. So, in Windows it would be * and in linux, foo is that correct?

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    CharlieSpencer

    In Windows, the asterisk (*) is a wild card used in searching, etc. I believe it serves the same function in Linux.

    'foo' is a term used only in documentation. Actually typing it in as a command parameter probably will result in a error message.

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    BSD

    HAL 9000 Moderator

    Is a different OS system more like Unix than Linux in the way that it works.

    It's the basis of Mac OSX if that's any help and as it's had it's day in Court there are no problems with using it in a commercial application where as Linux may have some problems at some time in the future.

    Col

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    w2ktechman

    :)

    Look up the command

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    Deadly Ernest

    One important thing to remember is that the majority, if not all, the Unix commands are the same for Linux. I use a few reference books.

    Oreilly - Linux in a nutshell

    Nicholas Wells - Guide to Linux Installation and Administration - from Thomson Learning

    SAMS - Red Hat Fedora 4 Unleashed
    (I got this when I was trying real hard to make FC 4 work, and since found that 99% of what it tells me about the commands etc is the same for other Linux distros).

    That and the manpages (manual pages). I've sometimes found the development documentation that you can load from most distribution disc s can help too. But they're a much more technical in nature, I only go there as a very last resort.

    Want some basix Linux or Unix books, approach your local tech college and ask them what text books they use for their beginner Linux or Unix courses, and get them.

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    khicker

    I think the short of it is... Most UNIX users have adopted Gnome as their GUI from the CLI and most Linux users that used to be "Windoze" users seem to like KDE more. this is a geralization but there is diehard competition on stating which is the "best". I believe KDE is more configurable, but it is a user choice.. Linux does both... Try that on Windows!

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    apotheon

    Things have changed over the years. Originally, GNOME was the more configurable and elegant of the two. GNOME has become so simplified (and stupefied) over the years, though, that it's basically for people who don't want to think. I guess maybe it's pursuing the classic MacOS (9.x and earlier) aesthetic of "You're too stupid to know what you want," while KDE continues to try to be a "better Windows" interface.

    I find them both hideous, odious, bloated, slow, and annoying. While KDE and/or GNOME might provide a not-completely discouraging starting point for beginners coming from the MS Windows and MacOS worlds, I suspect that most users would prefer Fluxbox, XFCE, Enlightenment, or even Sawfish and WindowMaker, if they'd just give something other than the Republican and Democrat of GUI environments a fair shake.

    Yes, I went there.

    edit: typo

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    khicker

    Yes, but it's hard to get an Independent, Constitutionalist, or "others" to the masses.

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    apotheon

    I keep trying anyway.

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    apotheon

    I've used probably half a dozen Linux distributions extensively, another half dozen enough to have a pretty good understanding of them (enough to know why they aren't as useful to me as others, at least), and know a fair bit about another couple dozen without having used them much.

    I've written a few articles here at TR that could be helpful for the Linux beginner:

    Linux 101: Use Knoppix to resize partitions for dual-boot installs
    Linux 101: Installing Debian GNU/Linux
    Linux 101: Making manpages work for you
    Linux 101: Efficient software management with the Advanced Package Tool in Debian

    There's more where that came from, too -- several articles about data and network security, for instance -- at this page. It isn't there today, but it's likely that there will be an article about using Subversion for personal document management listed on that page in the next few weeks as well.

    I intend to get to work on some resources more related to FreeBSD as well, in the near future.

    In my experience, RPM-based distributions vary wildly (at least, about as wildly as can be expected in the Linux world) from the expectations of most users of unixlike operating systems. If you want general Linux knowledge, RPM-based distributions are probably not the way to start, as RPM-based distributions not only vary quite a bit from DEB- and source-based distributions, but also from each other. If you just want to get away from Windows, though, and don't care about comprehensive understanding of Linux in general, that's not a reason to avoid RPM-based distributions.

    (note: RPM and DEB are binary package formats -- RPMs were invented by Red Hat, and DEBs by the Debian project)

    RHEL (Red Hat Enterprise Linux) and Novell SuSE provide the best support for proprietary software on Linux, such as Maya, with RHEL providing better support than Novell SuSE, because proprietary software vendors tend to develop for a specific platform rather than for portability. Fedora, the community-based spin-off of RHEL, is similarly well-supported by proprietary software vendors.

    Gentoo, Slackware, and Linux From Scratch provide the best support you're likely to get for nonstandard software configurations -- LFS is the most customizable, Gentoo is the easiest to configure, and Slackware is somewhere between the two. All three of them make it easier to thoroughly break things than most other distributions, however, because they way they provide this configurability is through use of source code compilation, with compile-time configuration options, to put together the platform. Gentoo is notorious for its "KDE is broken this week" issues -- which are not as bad as some make them out to be, but can be frustrating. Slackware is quite stable, but you can screw it up pretty easily if you're not careful -- at least you'll know it's your fault if it breaks, though. LFS is not for the faint of heart: unless you want to really get your hands dirty with experimentation and learning about the ugly guts of Linux, use something else.

    Knoppix is the biggest name in LiveCD distributions. MEPIS is more of a "professional" LiveCD. Ubuntu's LiveCD is mostly valuable as an introduction to Ubuntu. Those are pretty much the biggies for LiveCD distros -- there are of course other, more niche-oriented LiveCDs available, such as Zen Linux (really nice, lightweight, elegant desktop, but not nearly as good for hardware support as the others I've mentioned).

    There are the Windows-replacement commercial distros, of course. These include distributions like Linspire and Xandros. I tend to recommend avoiding Linspire -- use Xandros instead if you must use one of these. Some of the software provided with these is proprietary, and to get the full version of one of these distributions you typically need to pay some money (a pittance compared to Windows licenses, however -- and compared to support costs for RHEL and Novell SuSE as well).

    PCLinuxOS is sort of like a community version of the commercial distros Linspire and Xandros. It's a "user friendly" Windows replacement distribution, with a "user friendly" community. I have yet to meet a PCLinuxOS user (in the sense that he uses PCLinuxOS first and foremost) that doesn't come off like a Kool-Aid drinking cultist, however. Fully half the Linux users I've come across who are obsessively anti-Microsoft and sound utterly unreasonable about it (as opposed to those who are quite reasonable) are PCLinuxOS users as well -- and I don't think I've met a PCLinuxOS user who doesn't fit that description. I don't know why those personality traits are so constant for PCLinuxOS users, but they may be worth considering as factors in your decision.

    Debian has long been my favorite Linux distribution. It's among the most stable, and among the most easily configurable without being a source-based distribution. It has more software in its standard, free archives (about 20,000 distinct packages) than any other operating system on the planet -- about seven times as many packages as in Fedora, for instance. It has the biggest community of any OS as far as I'm aware, some of the most competent Linux users, and some of the best software management tools (the Advanced Package Tool, Synaptic, aptitude, and so on). Whereas RPM-based distributions have a tendency to change the way they do common, standard things, so that it's typical for any two established RPM distributions to differ from each other in occasionally surprising ways, the vast number of Debian-based distributions (including Knoppix, MEPIS, Ubuntu Zen, and a slew of others that I haven't already mentioned) tend to stick to pretty much the same way of doing things so that skills you learn that would be distro-specific with RPM-based distributions are more widely applicable with DEB-based distributions.

    Then . . . there's the BSD family of OSes.

    NetBSD was once the most widely ported operating system around, but Debian has outdone it on that score.

    OpenBSD is still the most secure OS in existence. It has shipped with a grand total of exactly one remotely exploitable vulnerability in default configuration ever. Ever. Just one. When you consider the hundreds of remotely exploitable vulnerabilities in default configurations of MS Windows every year, as compared with OpenBSD's one single vulnerability in the same fifteen-plus years, that should give you a pretty good idea of how secure it is. The OpenBSD project is also the source of a lot of security software projects, such as the OpenSSH remote access secure shell tool that is distributed with basically every Linux distribution and BSD OS in existence -- and is a better SSH implementation than any commercial implementation I've seen (and there aren't any other free implementations that even come close). The downsides to OpenBSD lie in hardware support, software support, and performance: it doesn't support anywhere near the hardware of NetBSD, FreeBSD, and most Linux distributions; it is somewhat limited in what software it supports, but the software it does support it supports exceedingly well; under high loads, it benchmarks notably more poorly than NetBSD, FreeBSD, and standard Linux-based OSes. For low-load purposes with fairly standard, productive uses, OpenBSD is quite useful. You just need to be aware of its limitations when choosing whether or not to use it -- an OpenBSD box (as OpenBSD currently exists) will never be much of a game machine.

    FreeBSD performance is comparable to Linux distributions using a 2.6 kernel -- which is to say it's excellent. Hardware support is not quite as broad as Linux, but the stuff it supports is often easier to configure and use with FreeBSD than with Linux, in my experience of the last four months or so (sound configuration, for instance, is a no-brainer in both when everything goes smoothly, but when it's not quite as smooth it's a lot easier to fix in FreeBSD than in any Linux distro I've used). Whereas Debian has more software in its archives than any other OS, FreeBSD is a very close second, and I don't think third place is anywhere near Debian and FreeBSD for software availability. FreeBSD, however, does not support proprietary commercial software as well as any Linux distribution. In many cases, where there's a gap in software support between FreeBSD and Linux, the difference is made up by excellent support for Linux software compatibility in FreeBSD, using compatibility libraries much easier to use than the Wine compatibility libraries for MS Windows software. FreeBSD supports installation from both source (via the "ports tree") and binary packages with equal facility, as well as Debian does with packages and Gentoo with its own ports system.

    Generally speaking, the best enterprise servers are, in order, FreeBSD, Debian, and RHEL. The best desktop for easy migration from MS Windows is probably Ubuntu, but it suffers some issues with stability and security as compared with Debian (then again, since Debian's about the best of any Linux distribution for those purposes, that could be said of any of them). Debian is likely the best general-purpose workhorse distro, at least as far as my tastes are concerned, with some of the lightest system administration demands.

    As for documentation . . .

    It's kind of a toss-up between FreeBSD and Debian, as far as which OS has the best documentation. Gentoo and Ubuntu are getting to be neck-and-neck for online forum support, but neither of them has anything as comprehensive as either the FreeBSD manual (freely available on the website and with the OS) or the Debian manpage system (also, freely available on the website and with the OS). Each has its advantages. FreeBSD also has extensive manpage support, but not quite as extensive as Debian's; Debian also has additional documentation, aside from the manpage system, but not quite up to the integrated, comprehensive standard of the FreeBSD manual. RHEL and Fedora have by far the most extensive documentation support via published books you can get in bookstores, though BSD-related books tend to be better organized, better written, and more complete.

    Despite all these differences, at least 98% of the skills you learn with any of these free unices are transferrable to the others. Even OpenSolaris is probably about 95% compatible with Linux and BSD OSes for transferrable skills -- more so, if you run it with BSD or GNU toolsets.

    Hopefully that answers some questions. I'm sure it raises a few more.

    Thanks for the compliment, TiggerTwo, and thanks for a Linux-related thread outside of article discussion that isn't a flame or a troll for flames by a Windows fanboy.

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    Tig2

    Between you, HAL, and Jacqui- with inputs from Stress and W2Ktech, I have my work cut out for me!

    As I read all the wonderful work that you have all done in this area, I am aware that PCLOS will be a great place to start for family that has no real understanding of computers- I had to install a MFD (read Multi Functional Device) for the fiance's mom last night. How do you not know how to do this??? She really doesn't. And she is not alone.

    His brother is currently in hospital. As soon as he gets out, he wants to buy a new computer. Vista will mess him up big time- all his current hardware is at least 5 years old. He can't afford to replace the whole kit. In XP world, I could make it all work. In Vista world, I am an end user and don't care to be anything much more.

    I can see that there will be others in my position- trying to support family members who are not technical. I feel that I need to at least offer some alternatives to costly replacement. I think that Linux/Unix can give me that flexibility. But before I go there, I had better have tested and learned it myself.

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    Tig2

    I am still interested, as are others on this board, what our peers can tell us about what you like, don't like, have tried, refuse to try, and WHY.

    Jaqui brought a point to the table about a distro that doesn't permit root privs. I see that as a problem- I am installing on a private machine, I may wish to work as root. However, in the case of my home user, that may never be an issue.

    Always looking for a new opinion...

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    apotheon

    As far as I'm aware, Ubuntu (including Kubuntu, Xubuntu, and Edubuntu) is the only distribution that doesn't allow root privileges by default, with the possible exception of Linspire (just don't even go there -- Linspire will ultimately do nothing but frustrate you -- and I'm not sure how they're handling administrative access in Linspire these days). That's changed relatively easily, but it can be kind of annoying to manage that differentiation of your local install of Ubuntu as compared with the default (I've heard of a couple cases where the default behavior was restored by a software update, which sounds uncomfortably like Windows to me).

    If you're going to use Ubuntu, you might as well stick with the default configuration. It's designed to make things dead easy for people who want to use the default config, and with almost no concern at all for people who want to change the configuration. This leads to people doing more customized configs having a more annoying time of it.

    The way Ubuntu handles administrative access without direct root access is through the use of the sudo command. The universal use of sudo creates some security concerns, but they're not huge concerns as long as you maintain reasonable security in other respects. I find having to use the sudo command for all administrative tasks highly annoying, personally, but I might consider Ubuntu as a way to keep an end-user in check, depending on what kind of access I'm likely to have to the machine and how much I personally would be providing support.

    That's really something you're going to have to decide for yourself, I guess. Generally speaking, I'd much rather use Debian (or, even better, FreeBSD). Configure it appropriately, and the end user need never know the difference. It could be configured so that the only way to access root privileges is to use the su command (different from sudo) from a specific lower-level user account, so that the main unprivileged user account cannot access root privileges and you cannot sign in as root without first signing in as the intermediate account -- that's the way I've done it on certain occasions in the past when I didn't trust the end user with unrestrained root privileges and still wanted normal root access for myself.

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    Jaqui

    when they shut down the root account, they made it so that the first account added is the password for system admin.
    That is the CRITICAL FLAW in their config.
    The non root password being used for root access is where they screwed the pooch royally.

    it makes their product useless in any business environment, if they want to use the security of linux to protect their data.

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    apotheon

    . . . why are you telling me this? I know. That's why I said that the sudo approach raises some security concerns.

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    shardeth-15902278

    But Apotheons comments made me think of it. People often shy away from Debian, as it has a reputation for being unfriendly and outdated, but it really is worth taking a look at. Particularly if you have access to resources like the nice step-by-step that Apotheon built to help you with installing and at the saem time developing an understanding of the philosophy.

    I have fiddled with a number of Distos over the Years (slakware, ubuntu, redhat, fedora, Suse, CentOS, Gentoo, and several others whose names I forget at the moment).

    Debian has one of the best track-records for stability, and the package management system is pretty darn easy after you get to know it. If you have someone who can help you learn the fundamentals of the philosophy, it is actually a nice option.

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    Jaqui

    is the installer.
    most people don't want a command line install, they want a pretty gui install.

    PCLinuxOS is debian backend with Mandriva's fancy gui tools frontend for install and configuration. They altered the software management tools to point at the apt system instead of urpmi that Mandriva uses. Which was the only real change needed for the Drakxtools to work with Debian.
    [ and it's only lacking Beryl on the default install for the full areo-glass / macosx gui effects ]

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    apotheon

    Please, don't turn into a PCLinuxOS cultist.

    Debian doesn't technically use a command line installer -- not by default, anyway. Its installer looks more like ncurses to me. I guess that's the difference between "command line" and "console based" coming through: it's not a fully fledged GUI install like that bloated monstrosity Fedora uses, the Anaconda installer, with all its clicky buttons and rounded edges, but it's certainly not a true CLI either. You don't need to know any commands to use the Debian installer -- and you don't need to use a mouse, either.

    It's the best of both worlds.

    The fact that some people are afraid of the unknown, and freak out when there aren't clicky buttons and 32b-color icons, is a real problem (for them), though.

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    Jaqui

    the show stopper for people just coming to linux when it comes to debian.
    [ and slak, gentoo, lfs, or any of the bsd options ]
    they are not the fancy mouse driven gui installers.

    funny thing is, they are the distros which garner the most respect from the experienced linux users.

    for people used to the gui install of ms, the console [ either cli or ncurses ] based install is a show stopper, they instantly assume it's to difficult to use.
    The LFS livecd "sane build environment" would really screw them up.. default to orange on black console, until you pass it some configuration options, after reading the [F1] screen. Then you have to set timezone and charset to work with before it says, ready. It holds there until you hit enter, system clock not functioning until you do so, causing system time to be out of sync if you are delayed in hitting enter.

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    shardeth-15902278

    People want to feel warm and fuzzy from the get-go. Personally, I'd like a nice interactive gui based partitioning tool (a'la partition magic), thought that is probably in all reality overkill, and would likely be more, rather than less confusing for a new user. I know Debian is working on a GUI installer (which unfortuantely craps out on my system). But where there are only a very few screens to get through. It isn't too difficult to create an easy handholding doc to get them through the initial install comfortably.

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    apotheon

    GUI partition tool

    Debian installation guide

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    khicker

    I talked about MEPIS in an earlier post. It would be good to see how the "live CD" version boots up on both machines you are using (I would like to know how well it does). The good thing about Linux is you can change security to anything you like in most cases. Even make sandboxes (traps)for all the hackers to play around in while trying to break your security.
    I think the CD load distros help with the " I only know how to load Windoze" users because it allows them to try different Linux versions, and most are brainless installs, finding most devices on fairly new machines. This is good if you have to load a user that doesn't know computers very well and only learns the applications they need to in order to complete their business.

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    khicker

    what about a dual boot machine with older hardware or linux with wine-Xine for older windows software?

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    Deadly Ernest

    as Linux will find and include XP on a list of OSs while XP won't always do this. I've had a P4 laptop and a P3 dual booted with XP and Linux for a few months. My preference is for SimplyMEPIS 6

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    apotheon

    "Linux will find and include XP on a list of OSs while XP won't always do this."
    In fact, MS OSes are notoriously bad at this. They often have problems even including other MS Windows releases in a boot menu, and specifically exclude non-MS operating systems.

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    Tig2

    So I have downloaded a couple of Linices and want to start playing.

    I have an AMD 2.08 GHz tower, 512MB DDR SDRAM and an nVidia GeForce 4MX with 64MB DDR shared video, 120 GB HDD (HP Pavillion a320n) that shipped with XP Home. I have recovery disks on standby in case something goes terribly wrong. This is my fiance's Mom's old computer- we got her a laptop for Christmas so I guess that it doesn't matter if I kill it.

    I know that there is a recovery partition on HP that is theoretically protected but I have the recovery disks so I don't think I am in trouble if I **** away the recovery part.

    So what is the best approach to cleaning the HDD to accept a new OS? Somehow I don't think that "format c:" will get me where I need to go to give this an honest try.

    Suggestions?

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    HAL 9000 Moderator

    As BIOS now doesn't support a Low Level Format you need a utility that can do the same thing and write zeros to every sector of the HDD. Using the Format option will not work when attempting to install any form of Linux as they don't use a NTFS File System or Partition whichever you prefer.

    I use a utility from IBM called Wipe & Zap but since IBM has sold its HDD manufacturing off to Hitachi they no longer supply this utility but Boot & Nuke will do the job admittedly somewhat slower but if you use the option to just perform 1 level of writing to the HDD or if you can the MBR's this will effectively ZAP the HDD and make it usable for your needs.

    http://tinyurl.com/4rfur

    There might be some that work faster but as I always look for the best available I'm not overly concerned by speed but someone else may have an option for something that's faster or I can E-Mail you the Wipe & Zap utility if you like.

    Col

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    Deadly Ernest

    that allows you to remove all partitions and reformat the whole drive for use with Linux. This usually does a very good job. The times I've used this, it's deleted all partitions, even on my HP laptop, and set the whole drive up for use with Linux. The ability of this toool does vary between distributions, but I've had it work well in Fedora Core, SimplyMEPIS, Debian, Ubuntu, and SuSE.

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    apotheon

    . . . but with Compaq it has always worked for me using Debian, and should work with FreeBSD as well. Most other distros should work, too, but I won't swear to it since I haven't checked out the partitioning tools on other Linux distributions than Debian and Knoppix for quite some time.

    Basically, during installation, when you get an opportunity to adjust the partitions on your hard drives, it should detect all resident partitions -- including that "recovery" partition. You should then be able to delete that partition (and any others you want to remove) whether the partitioning tools can actually read the partition or not.

    If for some reason that doesn't seem to be working for you, you can always try putting a Knoppix LiveCD in the drive and using the partitioning tools on that (QtParted) to deal with it. I've written an article about changing hard drive partitioning on MS Windows machines using Knoppix partitioning tools in preparation for setting up a dual-boot Linux system. You should be able to use the information in that article to sort out how to do what you need to do. For the most part, the tools are quite intuitive.

    You should realize that the way Compaq and HP set up their recovery partitions, the recovery CDs don't work if you **** away the partition. All the CD really does is provide access to the contents of that "hidden" partition via the recovery tools -- that partition is where the actual recovery data is stored. At least, that was the situation the last time I did enough tech support for people with off the shelf systems to have had to deal with this sort of thing regularly. I guess things might have changed in that respect in the last two years -- but I sincerely doubt it.

    I wouldn't worry too much about it anyway. I wouldn't want to run a Compaq or HP computer with an OEM install of MS Windows on it, anyway. Their OEM installs suck rocks, really. I never trusted them, even when I was using MS Windows regularly.

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    shardeth-15902278

    On most of the HP systems I have worked on (and Compaq as well), the restore Cd will work find, whether the restore partion is there or not. On the systems I have dealt with, the restore CD is essentially a 'GHOST Lite' which reimages the drive with a base image contained onteh CD. In some cases, there was a second CD which you would insert after the base image instal to apply drivers, applications, etc...

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    w2ktechman

    it should be able to be restored from either way. The last time I had to do it on an HP system, I had wiped and re-partitioned the drive, then ran the restore.

    But, I cannot say for sure on your model.

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    Tig2

    A total of 8 recovery disks. Now ask me if I am surprised.

    My HP laptop has 3 disks (DVD) and fiance's has 4 disks (also DVD). Would have taken 16 (I think) CDs to create recovery disks.

    I think I will try the Knoppix alternative first and see what happens.

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    w2ktechman

    PCLinux, as it first boots as a live cd, then places an icon on the desktop for installation help.

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    Deadly Ernest

    I have a HP Compaq NX9000 laptop that's about three and a half years old. A few months back I was away at a conference and got fed up with some problems with Win XP, I had my SimplyMEPIS 6 disc with me. I put it in the DVD player and installed MEPIS.

    The installation was no trouble, during the install process I was given the choices of:

    1. Let Mepis use the whole disc and create partitions as it wished.

    2. Use Qparted to create custom partitions.

    (NB: On installation on other systems with free space, there is a third choice to install in the unused space.)

    I chose number 1, and it blew away the whole disc, including the HP recovery partition.

    A few weeks later when my son needed to have XP on that machine to run some Windows specific software. I simply put in the Windows XP DVD and loaded a standard Win XP set up. It loaded perfectly, and the new load on the clean install actually worked better than the original HP installation.

    NB: I did NOT use the recovery disc, I did a clean install from the Win XP disc.

    Since then, we've replaced XP with SuSE and replaced that with Windows again, my son did that with the recovery disc and it went OK, but with less performance than the clean install.

    I'm planning on blowing the system, and partitioning it to dual boot with a clean install XP and SimplyMEPIS 6 sometime soonish.